The East Hamilton boys' basketball team is all business, according to senior Morrell Schramm, who led a balanced attack with 19 points in a 77-62 home victory over Cookeville in the Region 3-AAA quarterfinals Saturday night.
After losing to the Cavaliers by one earlier in the season and coming off a frustrating overtime loss to Cleveland in the district final, the Hurricanes displayed a complete game with patient passing and timely defense.
"Our coaches want us to be serious," Schramm said. "One of our keys is to get the ball inside. If Jamaal (Walker) and I can establish a powerful presence down low, we will get our outside shots and be very dangerous. We are coming together and really want to go back to state."
The added attention to the post duo created wide-open shots for veteran guard Cameron Montgomery, who sank a pair of 23-foot 3-pointers from beyond the top of the key late in the third quarter.
East Hamilton (22-8) got off on a roll early as Darwin Randolph scored seven of his 13 points in the first quarter to create a 19-12 lead.
Cookeville (23-10) got 10 points from undersized post player Alex Garrett in the first eight minutes but could not gain momentum at crucial times, trailing by nine and 12 at the ends of the second and third quarters.
Walker had a major hand in big defensive stops for the Hurricanes as the 6-foot-5 versatile forward finished with five steals and two blocked shots to go with his dozen points.
"I am very pleased with the way we played on both ends of the court," first-year East Hamilton coach Frank Jones said. "We moved the ball very well, and this was the way we know we can play every night if we stay focused. Cookeville was a tough team this year."
Over the past three seasons and counting, the Hurricanes are 8-2 overall in region tournament, sectional and state tournament play. Their next test will come Tuesday against District 6 champion Stone Memorial (22-6). That will be at Cleveland if the Blue Raiders (25-4) beat Rhea County (10-18) at 7 tonight.
"I feel like our confidence is there and we are focused," said Schramm, who threw down a vicious dunk in the fourth quarter off a slick find by Randolph. "I don't like selfish stuff. We all have to share the ball. As long as we win, I don't care how, that's all that matters."
Montgomery finished with 17 points and three 3s, while Marcus Long added nine points. The Hurricanes had 19 assists.
The next test will present a challenge in the post, as they will look to contain 6-foot-7 standout Justin Headrick and the rest of the Panthers.
"We have to go in there with a strong mentality," Schramm said. "We have to play hard. In no way can we go in there expecting to win easily. We have to bring it and battle."