The Hobart basketball team led by as many as 14 points in its Liberty League opener against Hamilton, but the Statesmen used a combination of depth and guile to hold for a 65-62 win in Bristol Gym. Hobart improves to 9-3 overall, the program’s best start since the 1978-79 Statesmen went also went 9-3 through the first 12 games.
The first half belonged to the Statesmen and more specifically, guard Blair Helton. On his way to a game-high 11 points at halftime, the first-year scored eight straight points within a 16-2 Hobart run that ballooned the home team’s advantage to 20-6. Senior guard Tim Llewellyn kicked off the run with consecutive 3-pointers. He finished the game 5-of-8 from beyond the arc for 15 points.
However, the Continentals didn’t roll over. Matt Dean’s jumper with late in the first half got the visitors within three, 27-24, but Helton and junior forward Matt Pebole made consecutive threes to close the first half scoring with Hobart in front 33-24.
Blair’s jumper at 11:52 of the second half proved to be the high-water mark for the Statesmen in the stanza, lifting the home team to a 46-36 lead.
Over the next three minutes, Hamilton (6-4, 0-1) wiped out Hobart’s lead with 10 unanswered points, including four from Dean, who finished the game with 10 points. The Continentals briefly took the lead, 53-51, on a 3-pointer from Ephriam McDowell (11 pts).
Senior guard Mark Bruce tied the game with a jumper on Hobart’s next trip down the floor, grabbed a defensive rebound off a missed Hamilton 3-pointer, and then put his team in front with another jumper.
Ryan Wright tied the game for the fifth and final time, 55-55 with 3:39 remaining. First-year forward Richie Bonney put the Statesmen in front for good with his layup at the 2:54 mark. Over the next two minutes, both offenses went cold, but Bruce showed why he’s Hobart’s captain, collecting a defensive rebound, an offensive, rebound, and a steal during the drought. The latter led to sophomore guard Stefan Thompson‘s baseline jumper and a 59-55 lead with 38 seconds to go.
From there, the Statesmen went 6-for-6 from the free throw line, including four makes by Bruce, to close out the victory.
Led by Helton’s team-high 16 points, Hobart’s bench outscored Hamilton’s 26-7. The rookie also collected seven rebounds. Bruce finished with 10 points, five rebounds, and three steals, while Bonney notched a game-high 11 rebounds to go with six points.
Four of Hamilton’s five starters hit double digits, led by Pat Sullivan’s game-high 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Wright added 12 points.
The Statesmen will be back in action on Friday, Jan. 14, when they host Skidmore at 8 p.m. The Continentals will return home to face Union at the same time.