PARK HILLS – Although the Hillsboro boys basketball program has enjoyed plenty of recent success, the big trophy from the Central Christmas Tournament kept eluding its grasp.
A patient and unselfish approach helped the unbeaten Hawks remove that void Saturday night with a 65-54 championship triumph over Farmington in a rematch of last year’s final.
Michael Brewer finished with 26 points, and fellow forward Gaven Pinkley posted a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds in the victory.
The two most heralded players on each team shined with a capacity crowd looking on, but top-seeded Hillsboro (12-0) received a timely boost from its supporting cast.
The Hawks bypassed decent shots to create better ones by making extra passes. Ben Lampkins drilled a 3-pointer off an Isaiah Martin assist to spark a pivotal 8-0 run in the third quarter.
Brewer connected from long range on the next Hillsboro possession, and Lampkins leaped to steal a long inbounds pass before making an uncontested layup for a 45-36 advantage.
“We have eight seniors. We play a bunch of them, and they don’t get panicked,” Hillsboro coach Dan Johnson said. “We literally use the word easy all the time, just reminding our guys to run easy offense. We have talented players who can score, and fell that eventually, somebody is going to be open.”
Farmington (5-5) battled for a fourth straight night without starting center Cole Laurence, who suffered an injury just 20 seconds into a first-round contest against Fredericktown on Wednesday.
Tycen Gray thrived against taller defenders to power in 25 points, and senior Brendon Hardy added 23 more. But their teammates combined for just six points.
Hardy knocked down a baseline jumper to make it 47-42, and curled around screen for a runner at 55-50 with 1:52 to play, but the Knights could not draw closer than five in the fourth quarter.
Martin rebounded his own miss and dished to Brewer on a cut through the lane for a clinching response. Lampkins added four late free throws to finish with nine points.
Hillsboro reached the title game with three victories by an average of 36 points, but received a challenge from the Knights, who hoped to avenge their 1-point district setback from last March.
“We had to pack in the defense, and when we did that, they hit outside shots,” said Farmington coach Terry Noble, whose squad committed only six turnovers. “It’s kind of a helpless feeling. We weren’t at full strength, but I thought we gave it everything we had.”
The first half featured eight ties, and the opening quarter finished even at 13-13. Pinkley had 10 points for Hillsboro in the first quarter, including three baskets off lob passes and a second-chance dunk.
Jackson Schrum converted a reverse layup with contact into a 3-point play, and Gray moved outside for a corner triple that briefly gave Farmington a 13-11 edge.
Brewer dominated the second quarter with 12 points, and twice traded baskets with Hardy within a three-minute span.
The Hawks entered halftime leading 27-26 despite Hardy beating the buzzer from the corner, and struck first in the third quarter on a Michael Keller 3-pointer.
Gray netted seven field goals from the post after intermission. He collected a blocked shot by Pinkley and alertly elevated to keep Farmington within 35-33.
Farmington will host a rematch with Hillsboro on Feb. 16.