The only way for the Restoration Academy basketball team to pull off an upset of Hamilton Heights in the championship game of the SCORE International Holiday tournament Monday was to use its speed to get out in transition in hopes of creating layup opportunities.
The Fairfield, Ala., team was unable to, however, and had to deal with the consequences -- the Hawks' size advantage.
Hamilton Heights was able to use its length to bother Restoration in the half court and claimed the tournament title at Hixson with a 67-45 victory. Aleksa Jugovic had 20 points and seven assists for the Chattanooga team, while Abdulhakim Ado finished one point shy of a triple-double with nine points, 13 rebounds and 12 blocks.
The Hawks (19-1) sat back in a 2-3 zone for the vast part of the game, and their opponents, who had no player taller than 6-foot-3, were unable to create any offense not stemming from a turnover. Time and time again, Restoration attacked Ado inside, trying to draw fouls, but to no avail as the Hawks' defense -- which measures 6-6, 6-7 and 6-11 in the back of the zone -- was able to create steals or blocked shots.
They blocked 17 in all.
"I really like our 2-3 zone," Hamilton Heights coach Zach Ferrell said. "It gives us a lot of options, especially when we're being active in it. When we get stops, we're able to get the ball out in transition for easy baskets."
The Hawks also corralled 16 offensive rebounds, creating extra possessions that normally turned into dunks, layups or 3-pointers. They started to pull away in the third quarter, pushing their lead to 10 points before blowing the game wide open in the final period.
Laurynus Vaitkus finished with 15 points for the Hawks, while Stefan Roknic added 12 as the team knocked down eight 3s. Jugovic, a 6-4 point guard, had seven assists and only one turnover against Restoration's relentless pressure.
"I like being able to go against quick point guards," the Tennessee Tech signee said. "It gives me a chance to work on my decision-making.
"This was an important win for us. We're trying to develop as the season goes along and get ready for postseason tournaments. It's good experience for us."
Marquis Grays had 14 points and De'Ederick Petty added 13 for Restoration (13-5).
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.