By Matt Williams
HAMILTON — Supposedly, freshman point guard Michael Carter-Williams had an off-shooting night during a Hamilton-Wenham game last week.
Try telling that to Newburyport, who saw first hand what can happen when the Generals' sophomore sharpshooter gets in a groove.
Carter-Williams couldn't miss last night, racking up 21 first half points — 17 in the opening quarter alone — to lead Hamilton-Wenham over the Clippers, 63-42.
"Michael was really focusing on his shot — and was drilling them early," said Hamilton-Wenham coach Marty Binette, whose team (11-4) has won eight straight. They are 8-2 in Cape Ann League Small play, leading the league.
"We had a really good start, and that's something we haven't done this year; we've been a better second half team. Tonight, we came out in the first half and put it away early."
Indeed, the Generals left little doubt that their eighth straight victory would ultimately be in the cards with an early blitz to open things up. Carter-Williams had 10 of his team's first 12 points as the hosts raced out to a 15-0 lead. That quickly ballooned to 25-6 at the end of one quarter.
"We got off to a bad start — but it was because they put us in that spot," said Clippers coach Tom L'Italien, his team 9-7. "They got out well, and they're a tough team to chase when they have good guard play."
On the rare occasions where the Generals missed a shot, the likes of Corey Daff and Nate Masterson were there to clean it up. Daff grabbed 12 rebounds and Masterson pulled down six as Hamilton-Wenham dominated the glass to the tune of 34-15 for the night, including a 16-5 edge in the first half.
"Michael scores a lot of points, but we're nothing without Corey and Mike (Drinkwater)," said Binette. "All year they've held teams to one shot (defensively). Newburyport was one and done tonight."
It's hard to believe that the Generals were once 3-4. But with the emergence of Carter-Williams and James Rodrigues (7 points) as two of the league's premier shooting guards, they've rounded out their typically tough squad.
"We've always been good defensively," Binette explained. "But this is the first year we've had a couple of kids that can score consistently. It's nice that they can take this defensive effort and convert it to baskets on the other end."
The Clippers made some headway in the second half, winning the third quarter and bringing it to 49-27 heading into the final period. Rodrigues nailed a jumper to ignite a 7-0 Generals run to start the fourth, though, and that extinguished any hope of a Newburyport comeback.
Despite leading the CAL Small title chase, Hamilton-Wenham is well aware their next two opponents, North Reading and Lynnfield, trail them by only one point in the standings.
"They're so focused on the next game. The first thing Nate (Masterson) said in the locker room after the game was 'Friday night, Friday night'," said Binette. "They want to win the league; they're focused on that."