News Sports Editor
It may not have been the prettiest effort, but the Hillman boys basketball team buckled down and did what was necessary to pull out a win on Tuesday.
Ty Jones had a career night, scoring 26 points as the Tigers overcame a 26-turnover night to beat Atlanta 65-57 at Hillman High School.
Hillman (7-3, 6-2 North Star) led 30-17 at the half and overcame a couple of short runs by the Huskies to pull out a win over its Montmorency County rival.
"We had leads tonight where we had opportunities to kind of expand on it a little bit and we shot ourselves in the foot," Hillman coach Eric Muszynski said. "A lot of times I noticed we had consecutive turnovers. It wasn't just one here or two there, it was three in a row and Atlanta did a nice job capitalizing on that."
The Huskies (2-7, 2-6 NSL) scored the first nine points in the third quarter to cut Hillman's lead to four, 30-26 with 5:11 left in the period. The Tigers answered back with a run of their own over the next several minutes which included two big triples from Hunter Fessler. Hillman led 46-33 at the end of the period.
Atlanta cut the lead to six points with 5:19 left in the game and kept the score relatively close from there, but struggled to get shots to fall during crunch time. A basket from Garrett Badgero with 1:55 left got Atlanta to within five, but that was as close as the Huskies got.
"The game pretty much consisted of two halves for us. Turnovers in the first half and not executing on offense really hurt us," Atlanta coach Ryan Marlatt said. "Second half, we were more aggressive on offense driving to the basket, making the extra pass and we got some good shots and we came out ready to play."
Badgero led the Huskies with 24 points and Jacob Chambers added 14.
Using a newly-installed dribble-drive offense, the Tigers jumped out to a 14-4 lead to start the game, thanks largely to Jones who scored 10 points in the first eight minutes, including two baskets that came off of steals in a 12-second span.
Dylan Ross added a double-double for Hillman, scoring 11 points and adding 11 rebounds. Mason VanPamel and Brenden Zimmer each had eight points.
Hillman found a lot of success at the free throw line too, shooting 18-for-24 compared to 5-for-12 for Atlanta.
Muszysnki was pleased to see Jones and Ross come up with big games for the Tigers, pointing out that it will be crucial for players to step up as the season goes on.
"I thought he (Jones) did a really nice job early on. I thought Dylan Ross did a nice job too," Muszynski said. "Those two really triggered us and sometimes you need that because as we go and we get better as the season goes along and it might be different guys stepping up on offense."
A free throw from Badgero with 4:40 left in the first half pulled Atlanta to within four, 17-13, but Hillman responded with an 11-0 that gave them a comfortable lead at the half.
Muszysnki was pleased with the way his team rebounded from last week's loss to Hale, but stressed after the game that his team needed to cut down on turnovers and needed to improve its rebounding.
"It was a little sloppy tonight, but we nestled in, we handled what we needed to at the right time and we pulled out a victory, so that was the important thing," he said.
Hillman's JV team beat Atlanta 39-21. Josh Reinbold led the Tigers with 10 points and Joey Gross led Atlanta with eight.
HILLMAN (65): M. Olschanski 1 0-0 2; Ross 2 7-9 11; Jones 9 6-6 26; Klein 1 0-1 3; VanPamel 2 4-6 8; Zimmer 4 0-0 8; Fessler 2 1-2 7.
ATLANTA (57): Badgero 10 1-3 24; Barrett 1 0-0 2; Juergens 1 3-4 6; Webster 1 0-0 3; Dobbyn 4 0-0 8; Chambers 6 1-2 14.