West Meck boys scrap back to .500 record

by Aaron Garcia

The West Mecklenburg High School boys basketball team might have gone a long way in salvaging its season in the last two weeks after a brutal pre-holiday schedule left the Hawks with a 3-5 record. But coach Donald Kirby’s squad has rebounded to win three of its last four games, giving it a 6-6 record and a chance to wipe its slate relatively clean as it heads into the second half of the season.

Donald Kirby

At the same time, however, Kirby likes the seasoning his team got in the early going.

The Hawks lost four consecutive games between Dec. 10 and Dec. 20 by a combined 14 points, and three of those teams – Vance, Berry and Waddell – are ranked in Mountain Island Weekly’s Super 10 poll. Gastonia Huss, who beat the Hawks 72-66 on Jan. 5, is 10-2 and considered a contender for the Class 3A state title.

“It’s been a growing experience for us,” said Kirby. “To come within six points of beating a team like (Huss) and to play all the ranked teams that we have this year, I think the guys have gotten a lot of valuable experience that I don’t think they would’ve gotten playing lesser teams.

“To have a chance to win every game really speaks to the progress the team is making. It’s nice to have that experience behind us going into conference play now.”

A big reason for the Hawks’ recent success has been the play of versatile West Charlotte transfer Julius Hamilton. The small forward notched 19 points and 12 rebounds in a 62-34 win over Garinger on Jan. 4, followed by a 20-point, 10-rebound performance in the loss to Huss. Hamilton is only 6 foot 2, but his 260 pounds, coupled with guard skills, make him a tough matchup.

“He’s got the size to post up and rumble with big guys, but he can shoot it from (3-point range),” Kirby said. “He can handle the ball, and he has a real big basketball IQ. He adds another dimension pretty much wherever we put him.”

Kirby also said Terrance Williams (27 points, 10 rebounds against Garinger) and backup point guard Justin Hyde (averaging eight points, five rebounds, three steals in last the four games) have been key during the Hawks’ recent stretch of wins.

The Hawks host Harding on Friday, Jan. 7, before a home rematch against Berry on Monday, Jan. 10.

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