Tartan coach Mark Klingsporn and Hopkins Coach Ken Novak Jr. had a good conversation before the tip. How much respect have these coaches earned for themselves? The clock had reached zero but the two continued to talk about whatever elite coaches talk about and the officials waited until they were done.
Then the game started and business picked up. Intensity was everywhere and only the tough guys made plays. Phillip Stribling hit two treys for the Royals and scored a putback. Freshman Amir Coffey attacked the rim and used his length for early field goals. Hopkins junior Jake Wright sank a pair of his trademark threes plus went at the rim beating the defender for two scores. Tartan had the only big on the floor in Brody Jackson and Klingsporn’s Titans (especially Teddy Klingsporn, Mark’s nephew) isolated the big and found him space to hit double figures with four mintues to go in the half. Kharie Kirkland also found Jackson with assists, nailed a trey, and got to the rim for production. Overall the Titan defense was suffocating despite giving up size at every wing position.
Intensity was also everywhere. Kirkland swung an elbow and although it missed its target Kamali Chambers went to the ground like he was knocked out by Mike Tyson. Kirkland and Jamal Davis got into it verbally and at times physically. Yes the contest was heated until Jackson sprained an ankle and had to go to the bench next to team leader Xavier Hall who was also out because of injury (Hall received stitches after an injury on Thursday). At that point it was 44-35 with two minutes left. Hopkins scored after the injury and closed the lead to seven but a Kharie Kirkland trey at the buzzer built Tartan’s lead to 52-39 at the break.
The game held steady for the next ten minutes with Hopkins dishing out some punches (another Wright trey, Jamal Davis getting lane for scores) but Tartan took those blows and dealt counter measures that were equally as affective. Kirkland led a constant break on every Hopkins mistake and all the bench players Tartan threw on the floor did a great job defending and playing tough. With the score at 75-58 tartan found Mike Wales in the corner and his drive to the rim was met with contact but still produced a bucket for a 19 point advantage. The clock read 7:36 and the game was very much in Tartan’s control.
Everyone in the gym knew Hopkins would make a run and they kept waiting, and waiting, and then in the final three minutes it happened. Jamal Davis produced five baskets in a four minute span and Nick Johnson produced a lay-in that put the score at 83-79. Tartan was down to just six rotation guys and they were totally gassed just hoping to hang on with free throw shooting and guts. Mike Wales missed one of two fouls shots and then Davis attacked to hit a one-hander with 31 ticks remaining and the scoreboard read 84-81.
Mike Hudspeth was next to be fouled for Tartan and his two shots (with Hopkins students chanting “Pressure, Pressure”) resulted in one miss with 31 ticks remaining. Back the other way a Jake Wright trey pin-balled up around the basket support and out of bounds. Tartan had to foul and this time Hudspeth made a pair improving Tartan’s lead to six points with 17 seconds remaining. Tartan finished the victory off with an 88-85 win and did so with Xavier Hall and Brody Jackson not in the line-up.
Score by quarter: Tartan 52-36--88, Hopkins 39-46--85
Tartan – Kharie Kirkland 24, Keenen Bellaphant 7, Teddy Klingsporn 6, Michael Hudspeth 13, Thomas Hanson 9, Michael Wales 12, Jermaine Borward 4, Brody Jackson 13
Hopkins – Kamali Chambers 8, Amir Coffey 14, Melvin Martin 3, Jake Wright 18, Jamal Davis 24, Phillip Stribling 10, Nick Johnson 8