2018 Game 26 Recap:  West Hancock vs. Eureka

Box Score

West Hancock Team Info
Eureka Team Info


The West Hancock Titans (13-1) repeated as Macomb-Western Holiday Tournament champs, tipping the Eureka Hornets 49-48 in the title match Saturday night. It is the second tournament championship for the West Hancock co-op, but a first for their veteran head coach Reno Pinkston, who missed the final day of competition last year to attend his son’s wedding.

The Most Valuable Player trophy is headed back to Hamilton, too. Drake Hammel made sure of that. The West Hancock junior was a man on a mission in the title game. Hammel poured in 29 points, grabbed five rebounds, handed out five assists, and swiped six steals in a dominant performance. Hammel, who led the tournament with 91 points scored in four games, became the second player from Hamilton High School to win the MVP award, following his former teammate Logan Dorethy’s award last year.

Just a he did in West Hancock’s 46-42 semifinal win over Monmouth-Roseville, Hammel saved his best plays for when the game was on the line. He had two take-aways in the final minute, including a steal and break-away lay up that put the Titans ahead 49-45 with 45 seconds to play.

Adam Anderson drained a three-pointer on Eureka’s (12-5) next possession and the Hornets’ press forced a turnover to gain possession with 20 seconds remaining. But just as quickly, Hammel picked the Eureka ball-handler’s pocket near midcourt, dived on to the court, and pushed the ball toward the West Hancock basket where the Titans were able to run the loose ball down and call timeout calming a wild exchange with 11 seconds to go.

The Hornets were far from done, however. West Hancock was sent to the line and missed the front-end of a one-and-bonus. Eureka raced down the court, but could not get a shot off because Hammel committed a foul with 0.6 seconds, and West Hancock had a foul to give. The Titans were able to tap away the ensuing in-bounds pass on a lob attempt to Keegan Zimmerman from the end line, ending the Hornets’ chances of winning their first ever MWHT title in their eighth attempt.

The game was truly an epic struggle, featuring a pair of IBCA Hall of Fame coaches, eight ties, seven lead changes, and a marquee matchup between West Hancock’s Hammel and Eureka’s Zimmerman. Neither side was able to gain more than a five-point lead in the first half, as both squads shot over 50 percent from the field.

Ahead 25-22 at intermission, West Hancock enjoyed the better of play in the third quarter. Hammel tallied nine points in the frame, including seven during a 9-2 run that gave West Hancock its largest lead at 34-25 with 3:20 to play in the third.

Eureka coach Tim Meiss turned to freshman Trevor Heffren for a spark and he delivered for the Hornets. After sitting out the entire first half, Heffren buried his first three shot attempts, recording eight points in under five minutes to bring Eureka to within one, 38-37, with 6:40 left in regulation.

From there, fans were treated to a late-night duel between Hammel and Zimmerman. West Hancock scored the next six points, including back-to-back lay ups by Lucas Dorethy set up by nifty passes by Hammel and Peyton Dooley. Zimmerman then went off, drilling a pair of three-pointers followed by a lay up to tie the game at 45 with 2:06 to go.

But the Hornets never did get a shot up to take the lead as they suffered turnovers on their next three possessions. It was unfortunately a familiar refrain for Eureka, which was outscored 19-3 in points off turnovers on the night. Zimmerman led Eureka with 20 points on 9-of-17 shooting to go with five boards. He was named to the 10-member All-Tournament team. He is the first Hornet to make the All-Tournament team since Tate Taufer in 2013. Alex Brittain and Adam Anderson recorded eight points and five rebounds each for Eureka as well.

Peyton Dooley joined Hammel on the All-Tournament team. Dooley had 12 points, three assists, and three steals in the title game. West Hancock’s starting five played the entire 64 minutes of both games played on Saturday. In fact, the Titans had only five players record a point over the four games played in the entire tournament. West Hancock is the 11th school to repeat as tournament champs and the first since Rockridge won a record-tying three consecutive from 2013-2015.

Brian Sullivan
December 29, 2018
The bracket:
Keep up-to-date on the ever-changing bracket during the tournament by visiting this page.