Harper men's basketball coach Tony Amarino doesn't mind a little contact in the games he's overseeing.
In Tuesday's case, specifically, he appreciated the game's hard-nosed nature.
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"I'm kind of glad we were in a physical game," Amarino said. "That's what were going to see in Freeport (in the upcoming Highland tournament)."
Even better is that the Hawks weren't thrown by the nature of the contest Tuesday, as Harper extended its winning streak to eight games with a 76-65 win over visiting Oakton Community College (5-7).
"The key was defense," said Harper freshman Kevin Walsh, who had his second-highest scoring output of the season with a game-high 28 points. "My teamates did a good job of finding me open."
"He's a flat-out scorer," Amarino said of the the former St. Viator player, who finished with a game-high six 3-pointers.
The Hawks carried a 34-33 lead into the intermission, and midway through the second half Oakton went with a diamond press. The physicality of what followed seemed to wear on the Hawks.
"I thought it worked well for us," Oakton coach Mick Reuter said of the defensive change.
"It was more physical than most of our games this season," Walsh said.
The player who benefited most from the defensive change was Oakton redshirt sopohmore Najee Bailey. He scored 5 points in a 10-3 Raiders run, including a go-ahead head basket with 7:14 left.
Reuter was pleased with the way the Indiana native played. "He did a real good job on the baseline against Harper's (2-3) zone," Reuter said.
Meanwhile, the Hawks were struggling with the game's fast pace.
"They were intense -- we didn't match it," Walsh said. "We just had to get over that mentally."
Despite the shift in momentum, the Hawks ultimately responded, finishing the contest on a 14-0 run.
"You have to figure it out," Harper guard Brad Reibel said of the team's success at the end.
Kevin Sexton finished with 16 points for Harper (8-3), while Reibel had 8 and Tyler Gaedele had 6.
"We started to play with the same intensity they did (late in the game)," Sexton said.
It also helped that the shots started going down for the Hawks.
"(Walsh) just made shots down the strech," Rueter said. "He's been doing that quite a bit."