East Hamilton basketball coach Michael Stone wanted his team to benefit from playing a top-level opponent — to see not only how those teams play but to show his Hurricanes what's important to that type of school.
What The Rock gave them Saturday was a new meaning to "an emphasis on defense."
With 7-foot Kansas signee Joel Embiid anchoring the middle and other elite NCAA Division I prospects all around, the Lions cruised to an easy 76-38 victory over the host Hurricanes in the Scenic City Shootout.
The Rock later defeated McCallie 66-54 to finish the event 3-0.
Embiid finished with 15 points, but his numerous rebounds and blocks -- he had four in one possession alone -- had so much more of an impact. He was also one of his team's biggest cheerleaders, leaping off the bench when a teammate took a charge in the fourth quarter.
"My job is to play as hard as I can and do whatever I can to help my team win," he said. "We put defense first. When we get stops on defense, we can get out on the offensive end and score.
"We stress that every day in practice."
The Rock led by 14 at the half but quickly blew the game open with a 13-1 run. The Hurricanes did score eight points in a row, switching to a guard-heavy lineup that was able to get out in transition.
"I feel like if we get our defense going, it leads to transition on the other end," Rock coach Justin Harden said. "We reward guys for charges; I think a charge is the last line of defense. When the whole team is scrambling around, we're all doing our part to be successful."
Christian Benzon led The Rock with 20 points, with Papa Diatta adding 19 -- 15 coming on 3s. Cody Knox had 14 points to lead the Hurricanes (13-4), while Tre Herndon added 10.
"This is a game where you can't pay attention to the scoreboard," Stone said. "The guys continued to play as if it was a 0-0 game. The Rock can go deep into their bench; there's no drop-off.
"I'm proud of our guys for playing hard, and continuing to try to do our thing and not their thing. The effort was there, and for a team that's starting to bud -- and possibly blossom -- like us, it's good to see a team like that unified. They don't care who prospers, and they have four kids coming off the bench with Division I offers."