LEXINGTON -- Scott Hamilton admitted great expectations posed a heavy, early-season burden for his basketball team.
But after a 56-40 win against new rival Sandusky on Friday night, perhaps the Lexington Minutemen (2-2) are ready to cast that yoke aside.
Outscoring the Blue Streaks, 20-6, in the fourth quarter of the rematch from last year's district finals certainly didn't hurt.
The seventh-year head coach, who lost just two players from last year's 23-6 Division II Final Four team, watched Lexington lose two of its first three games this season.
"(The pressure) was huge. These guys heard it all fall, during football, soccer, golf season. They would see people in a store uptown and hear them say, 'We can't wait to see you guys play basketball this year,'" Hamilton said.
"They knew it. They heard it. And they felt it. I think was a little bit of the struggle early on ... expectations were extremely high. Hopefully at the end of the season, we will look back and say the two games we lost back-to-back kind of woke us up a little bit and made us realize the success we had last year was because of the hard work and the things we did, not who we are," Hamilton said.
FAMILIAR ROLE: One Lexington player used to high expectations is senior Cade Stover, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound center who broke the school career scoring record last week in a loss at Mount Vernon.
Stover had 18 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots against the Blue Streaks (1-1), who got a late start to the season due to football playoffs, just as Lexington did. Sandusky eliminated the Minutemen in the second round of the football post-season before losing to Norwalk one week later.
Stover scored seven of his points in the decisive fourth quarter, including four of five at the foul line. Selected Mr. Football in Ohio, the OSU-bound Stover said he expects physical opposition.
"I think with the target we have on our backs, and what I have done in the past, you just come to expect it every game," Stover said. "I think tonight was a big step in the right direction for us."
Hamilton said opposing teams may have no choice but to continue to collide with Stover near the basket.
"(Sandusky's) answer for us getting the ball inside the paint to Cade was to foul him (eight times). He is going to have to get used to that because that's going to happen with a lot of teams we play. They just don't match up well with him. Our response is you are an 85 percent free throw shooter and that's the way it is," Hamilton said.
Sandusky coach Colin Irish, whose Blue Streaks have played Lexington four straight years in the district tournament, has to be tired of watching Stover from the opposing bench. He saw Stover score 27 in last year's district title game, including six of seven from the field and six of eight at the line in the fourth quarter in that game.
"We didn't execute tonight. We didn't make adjustments. They played well and we didn't. Stover is a handful inside. They are bigger than us. They outrebounded us (42-23), they outworked us, they outplayed us, they outcoached us. That's basketball and that's life," Irish said.
"It's fun to know we're not ending one of our seasons tonight. Usually we are playing one another in the 25th or 26th game. It has been a nice little rivalry over the last four years. It stings a little tonight, but we have to regroup," Irish said. "We can't feel sorry for ourselves with three games next week.
"We just didn't play well. We didn't make shots," he said.
COLD STREAKS: Missing shots plagued the Blue Streaks all night, including missing nine of 11 from the floor in the fourth quarter against a Lexington zone. Sandusky shot 30 percent for the game (16-54) and connected on just five of 25 three-point attempts.
Junior guards Tahj Staveskie and Dylon Jones, an electric backcourt who started as sophomores, combined to shoot just 10 of 25 -- just three of 18 behind the arc.
Lexington shot 43 percent from the field, including six of 16 triples.
"Our emphasis in practice (this week) was defense," Stover said. "When we came in on Saturday morning, we sat down and talked and said if we want to win basketball games, it has to start on the defensive end and that's what we did tonight."
Hamilton said defense is always something he and his staff stress.
"We are going to have exceptional players come through here and there, like the one we have now. What we have to be consistent at is on the defensive end. Shooting percentages are going to go up and down, peaks and valleys, but if our defense is constant, we can withstand some of those valleys in our shooting," Hamilton said.
STATISTICALLY SPEAKING: Stover was not the only Lexington player with a solid line in the scorebook. Ben Vore had 13 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. Jacob Depperschmidt had 14 points without missing from the field or the line.
Jones led Sandusky with 15 points and Staveskie added 11 and six rebounds.
Lexington committed 15 turnovers while Sandusky had seven.
UP NEXT: Lexington hosts Clyde tonight in another non-league game. Sandusky is at Madison on Tuesday to play the Rams in a non-league contest.