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Hodges goes off for 38; City overcomes Andrean in big second half

MERRILLVILLE -- Forty!

As Jamie Hodges rose to the rim on a breakaway in the final seconds of Tuesday's hard-earned 81-74 win over Andrean, some Michigan City teammates shouted the number, which would have been his point total for the game, except for one thing.

He missed.

"(Gio Laurent) was mad at me," Hodges said after getting tackled playfully on the court by the Wolves quarterback.

Little else went wrong on the night for the sizzling sophomore, who followed up a 30-point outing Saturday against Gary West Side by pouring in a career-high 38 versus the 59ers.

"People don't understand how good he is off the bounce," Wolves coach Tom Wells said. "He plays so low, the ball's about this high off the ground, you can't take it from him. He needs about that much space to get in the crack. He just has a knack for scoring. (Three-point shooting)'s the improvement. He has great rotation on the ball. His spin is perfect. You watch his misses, it might be short or long, but it's not often right or left."

City (3-1) closed the game on an 11-2 surge with Hodges scoring nine in the final two-and-a-half minutes. His and-one on a drive made it 73-72 and after Robby Ballentine answered the Niners, Omarion Hatch's putback put City back in front 75-74. Hodges did the rest, netting six straight free throws in the final 41.6, the middle two coming after a steal in a three-point game.

"The West Side game, we played bad transition defense and didn't really box out, so we had to come out here and try to do those two things better and get this win," Hodges said. "When we all lock in, it's hard to stop all of us. We all have good games."

Andrean never trailed in the first half and led 37-28 at the half behind 16 points by 6-5 forward Gabe Gillespie.

"I think we played 12 or 13 minutes and it didn't look like we wanted to be here," Wells said. "We're a team that needs to have energy in order to be effective. Obviously, you see what we can do when we get that energy. We've got to get to the point where the ball going in the basket doesn't dictate our energy. Right now, that's all that motivates us. We've got to be able to play through those stretches because it's just not in our control."

Nicky Flesher's three-point play on a drive put the Niners up 44-33 in the third before Hodges decided it was go time.

"When we get down, I just like get in this mode where I want to shoot more," Hodges said. "I just block everything out, like the crowd, just lock in, and I start hitting more shots. The second half, they went to like a pack line defense so it was hard to drive, so I came out and I started to shoot from deep more. Playing AAU basketball, I shot more away from the 3-point line. I feel like I shoot better way behind the line. I started making them, so I just went from there. The defense has to try to find a way to try to stop me."

Hodges hit three 3s and scored on the break in a 14-2 run that erased the deficit and put the Wolves up one.

"We wanted to make sure we were in the gaps so they couldn't penetrate," Andrean coach Brad Stangel said. "Hodges and Hatch, I don't know if there is a better backcourt in the area. We won't play another group like them with those guards. They are quick with the ball trying to get to the basket. For a while, we did really well, then he makes a couple long 3s. They are a nightmare."

The teams traded punches at a frenetic pace with the margin never exceeding four until the final 26 seconds. Andrean went scoreless in the final 2:20

"We're pretty disappointed in how we finished and that doesn't take away from how good they are," Stangel said. "We thought we let one slip away. We need better play out of our seniors in crucial minutes, getting rebounds, making sure we block out, making the right plays. They want to press you, get after you, force you to speed up. They're just trying to wear you out. Even though they're all about this tall, they're in and they get all the loose balls. This is our fourth year playing them and I can you tell this is the most disappointed we've been after playing this game."

Gillespie amassed 26 points and 10 rebounds, making 8-of-12 shots, and Stangel thought they should have gotten him the ball more. Flesher scored 17, 13 of them in the second half, and Deshon Burnett notched 10.

"When it gets tough, we've got to be able to get him the ball and we didn't get him the ball enough," Stangel said. "I thought Deshon had a great night. He's a great defender. We've got to find another guy, too. We played those same five for most of the last 10 minutes. Eddie Bastardo (quarantine) would have helped. He's aggressive, a football player."

Wells felt Andrean's attention to locking down Tahari Watson (zero points on two shots) benefitted them otherwise.

"Their whole game plan was to take Tahari out of the game," Wells said. "They put their best defender on him. He doesn't get any clean looks, but Jamie, all of a sudden, he doesn't have that best defender on him. Tahari doesn't understand his contributions. We've got a lot of weapons, as long as we stay unselfish. That's a really good victory. That team's good. It's a bunch of seniors. They don't break down very much. You talk about balance, inside-outside, I like that team a lot. Northwestern football uses a slogan, those rock cutters, they don't cut rock on the first hit. You never know which hit it takes that actually broke the rock. I think that's very true with the way we play, too. It wears on you. I'm not really sure where the payoff is, but we hope we get the payoff."

Hodges' 38 included four 3s and he made 12 of 14 free throws.

"I get to see it six days a week because he practices really hard, too," Wells said. "You couldn't come out here and play 32 minutes like that if you didn't practice hard like that. Omarion is not very far behind when it comes to that energy level and the disruptiveness. His offensive game has come so far. He's just become so assertive and we really need that."

Evan Bush and Hatch each added 15 to back Hodges as the lead trio registered 68 of the Wolves' points.

"I really didn't have a scoring mindset last year," Hatch said. "I was a defensive player and we had a lot of guys who can score. I just feel like if I brought it in, it would help my guys. I feel like if I keep confidence in my guys, they'll all shoot well. If he misses a couple shots, I just keep him up, tell him to keep shooting, so he doesn't get down on himself. We've all just got to lock in. We came out kind of sluggish. I'm the person who talks, so I've got to keep everybody going."

Andrean (1-1) continues its Duneland Conference swing Friday against Chesterton, while Wells might sneak in a round of golf Thursday with the Wolves off this weekend.


Michigan City coach Tom Wells chats up the Wolves after Tuesday's 81-74 win at Andrean.

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