The Hartford Hawks desperately needed a win. Not just to improve their standings or boost morale, but to prove that they can prevail when the odds are against them. And that's exactly what they got with a 80-71 win over the Sacred Heart Pioneers.
As a relatively young team with some transfer upperclassman, their roster has only been playing with each other since the start of the season. When John Carroll went down and out with a torn ACL, they looked to freshman forward George Blagojevic to take his place. When Cleveland "Pancake" Thomas was out for a few games, they lost another presence inside the paint. Then the worst of all in their last game against Holy Cross, losing both Blagojevic and the only senior on the team, Taylor Dyson, due to minor injuries, it was a hard roadblock to overcome.
This game, they stepped up their energy and were able to bring home a win, snapping a six game losing streak, and finally grabbing their first win since Carroll's injury. Four Hawks ended in double digits with two not far behind. It wasn't an explosive knockout, completely destroying the Pioneers, but it was enough.
Something I don't think I've ever written before, Junior Dougal Weir tied his career high of six points, scoring the first four of the game for the Hartford Hawks. Weir is more of a defensive man, standing at 6-10 and 245lbs, he's one hell of a man to get passed. For him to score the first two baskets, the bench went wild.
Pancake was the leading scorer for the night with a high of 17 points, and picked up his first double-double as a Hawk with 10 rebounds. His solid performance both in the paint and beyond the arc helped Hartford when Sacred Heart went on a run near the end of the game. He hit a clutch three pointer to give the Hawks a five point lead instead of two down the stretch.
Justin Graham has once again given a consistent performance which included 13 points and three steals, particularly a layup, then a steal from a Pioneer inbound pass under their own basket for another easy two points. Graham has hit 10 points or more in 7 of their last 12 games and has been averaging 32 minutes.
Freshman J.R. Lynch has proven himself an asset to the hawks after an explosive 20 point game against St. Francis Brooklyn, which helped him make it to the starting lineup. He's currently the only freshman to start and is getting some pretty steady minutes. His 12 points, three assists and two steals may have something to do with it. He not only hit the final two free throws to seal the win for his team, he also hit a clutch trey bringing their lead back to two possessions with 2:14 left on the clock. But don't be fooled by his small frame. He may stand 5-10 but he has the spunk and determination of players twice his size.
The final of the four in double digits is Senior guard Taylor Dyson. Having sat out the last game due to a minor injury and having only two games in double digits prior to this one, it was welcoming to see Dyson get back into the swing of things. While he brought in only 11 points, his ability to connect from beyond the arc and ability to draw fouls came in handy.
The two "honorable mentions" who just missed the double digit mark were Jack Hobbs and Jalen Ross, scoring nine and seven points respectively. Hobbs also brought in six rebounds and Ross spent most of his time on the court at the free throw line, only one shy of a perfect 8 for 8, which is where his seven points came from.
While the injuries will take some time to heal, giving the Hawks an interesting roster of capable people if this revolving door of injuries continues. Head Coach John Gallagher made a point to say how important the entire team is to their future success, "We need every guy to be ready to go. We need Dougal Weir, we need TreyVaugh [Wilkerson]. We need every guy on this team this year... There's so much to learn from this, there's so much growth... We can do a lot of things and we can win some games if everyone is as gritty as they were tonight."
While the Hawks can ride the high of this win for now, their next game is a mid-morning match up against D3 opponent, Widener.