WILKES-BARRE — Kyle Hammonds had been forced to be a spectator for a short stretch this winter. So when he suited up one final time for King’s on Saturday, he wasn’t going to waste any time making an impact.
The senior guard scored the Monarchs’ first 11 points and finished with a game-high 25 to help deliver a 72-57 win over Wilkes in Saturday’s finale at the Marts Center.
Hammonds had emerged as the Freedom Conference’s top scorer to open the second semester before an ankle injury briefly sidelined him. He played through pain down the stretch as the Monarchs (14-11, 7-7 Freedom) just barely missed a playoff berth, losing out on the league’s final seed to Manhattanville on a tiebreaker.
“This is the character of the kid — he’s in my office the other day apologizing for getting hurt,” King’s coach J.P. Andrejko said. “He was playing so well, the team was playing so well. But at our level, one of the things that we talk about all the time is that we’re all one injury away.
“When you get players the caliber of Kyle injured, it changes the dynamics of a team. Guys played hard, we got back, but it took a couple games to get used to playing without him. Which is unfortunate.”
Monarchs senior Joe Caffrey nearly upstaged his fellow captain, narrowly missing a triple-double with 11 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.
Between them, they helped King’s earn a season sweep of the Colonels for the second year in a row.
“They’re two of the best captains that we’ve ever had,” Andrejko said. “And that’s saying something with the quality of guys that we have.”
The Monarchs trailed for just a minute in the early going before taking control of the game with a 35-23 lead at halftime, dispersing what had been a loud and energetic student section behind the basket by the Wilkes bench.
Wilkes (8-16, 3-11) struggled to get into any kind of rhythm, committing 10 turnovers before halftime.
“I thought it was similiar to the last time we played them. We kind of just gave them the ball,” Colonels coach Jerry Rickrode said. “Stupid stuff like kicking it off our foot, bad cross-court passes.
“That set the tone.”
Unlike the last meeting, however, Wilkes never was able to make that one key charge in the second half to put the game in doubt.
Sophomore Alec Wizar scored 15 to lead the Colonels while senior Pat Furst came through with seven points and 12 boards.
“Defensively we were keying on the guards,” Andrejko said. “Last time, (Steve) Stravinski and Wizar were the two that got them back in the game, and we really wanted to do a better job of making them work and try to keep the ball out of their hands. Even the shots they made were really well contested.”
For Wilkes, it was the final game for five Colonels seniors including Furst, who was battling a knee injury over the past two months and playing through pain himself.
“He’s probably 70 percent, but he gutted it out,” Rickrode said. “I’m really proud of him. Really proud of him.”
Also departing will be Steve Blish, Brendan Sheldon, Craig Thomas and Nic Wilkins. All five shared the court together in the final minutes with the outcome decided.
It was the second straight campaign Wilkes finished under .500 after a run of 20 straight winning seasons.
“It’s been a tough month-and-a-half,” Rickrode said. “Going forward you’ve got to take tomorrow and absorb some things. And let the emotion of the whole thing kind of just set in and not react.
“And then it’s up to the guys in the offseason a little bit. There were times this year we just couldn’t get consistency at practice with guys in and out. Not to make excuses, because the practices were usually good. Just didn’t carry over to the game.”
King’s 72, Wilkes 57
KING’S (72) — Alex Cardoza 2-2 2-2 6, Joe Caffrey 3-12 4-4 12, Kyle Hammonds 10-21 3-4 25, Tom Heston 3-8 2-4 8, Dan Rutecki 5-9 1-2 11, Nate Oliver 0-1 0-0 0, Rich Douglas 0-0 0-0 0, Connor Hughes 1-4 0-0 2, John Dini 0-0 0-0 0, Dalton Ell 0-0 0-0 0, Pat O’Donnell 4-6 0-0 8, Derek Wilkins 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 28-63 13-18 72.
WILKES (57) — Tyler Jackson 0-4 0-2 0, Alec Wizar 5-12 2-4 15, Steve Stravinski 1-4 0-0 3, Pat Furst 3-10 1-1 7, Nic Wilkins 3-7 3-4 9, Craig Thomas 0-1 1-4 1, Jeremy Hartman 2-4 0-0 4, Steve Blish 2-6 0-0 6, Devin Dunn 0-1 1-2 1, Jimmy Brackett 2-5 0-0 4, Brendan Sheldon 3-4 1-4 7. Totals 21-58 9-19 57.
Halftime — King’s, 35-23.
Three-point field goals — KC 3-15 (Hammonds 2-7, Caffrey 1-6, Hughes 0-1, Oliver 0-1); WU 6-25 (Wizar 3-7, Blish 2-5, Stravinski 1-4, Hartman 0-1, Jackson 0-2, Wilkins 0-3, Furst 0-3).