Led by Jeremy Hemsley’s 17 points, Damien broke open a close first-quarter 18-14 contest with a breakaway second period punctuated by a Hemsley slam dunk and a narrow miss at a second monster jam en route to an easy 60-45 Spartans win over the Wilson Wildcats in La Verne last night.
“He’s a special kid first,” Damien coach Matt Dunn said about his sophomore star. “He’s probably a kid who could score 30 a lot if that was his sole focus.”
In the second period, Damien flashed its lock-down defense, limiting the Wildcats to one field goal and three free throws, allowing the Spartans to enter the locker room at the half with a 36-19 lead.
“I thought tonight in the second quarter, we were really able to use our energy and athleticism and it kind of got us a nice lead,” Dunn said. “I thought if we could fight through their screens well enough, we could defend them.
“It took us a while to figure out their rhythm, but once we did, we changed a lot of shots and that got us our lead.”
While Hemsley was literally elevating his game, he got plenty of support, including 13 points from senior guard Jared Dizon.
“He was great,” Dunn said, “We get so many shots because of Jared. He did a great job screening and got his hands on a lot of balls defensively. He really sets the tone for us. I thought he affected the game in a lot of different ways.”
Senior Keith Cavanaugh also chipped in with 11 points, mainly from the baseline.
“He’s really worked at it, and it shows,” Dunn said. “I thought it really showed because he missed his first couple and didn’t flinch. He knows he’s worked hard enough and earned the right to shoot those shots. We know he’s going to make enough of them to help us win the game.”
With the victory, Damien heads out on the road this Tuesday to face Temescal Canyon, a 67-61 winner over Temple City.
Dunn, who has led the Spartans to five quarterfinal appearances in the last five seasons, including three trips to the semifinals, is concerned but confident about Damien’s upcoming challenge.
“We’ve done a great job finding ways to win,” he said.