HILLMAN-The Hillman boys basketball team took a huge step toward controlling their North Star League fate on Thursday.
The Tigers withstood a late charge from Mio and a 24-point effort from Ben Lubitz and beat the Thunderbolts 58-55 in a conference matchup at Hillman High School.
The win leaves Hillman (5-1, 3-0 NSL) as one of three undefeated teams in the conference along with Posen and Oscoda.
News Photo by James Andersen
Hillman’s Brenden Zimmer, left, blocks a shot from Mio’s Bryce DeGrammont during the second half of a boys basketball game on Thursday at Hillman High School.
"I'm feeling pretty pumped up right now. We only play Mio once and to beat them on our home court in front of all our wonderful fans is a wondering feeling," Hillman junior Ty Jones said. "It means a lot. It means we can win the big games, we can beat the big teams and shows us we can compete with anyone in our league."
In a game between two of the top contenders for the league title, it seemed only fitting that the game would come down to the final shot. Hillman held a 51-47 lead with 4:23 left and watched Mio (4-1, 3-1 NSL) pull to within two four times, but the Thunderbolts couldn't take the lead.
Jones hit one of two free throws with 17 seconds left to give Hillman a 58-55 lead and on the next possession, Charles Auten's three-point attempt clanged off the rim for Mio. After Brenden Zimmer missed two free throws with seven seconds remaining, Lubitz raced down the floor and launched a shot from beyond the arc that was no good.
It was a disappointing ending for the Thunderbolts, who held a ten-point lead in the first quarter, but ran into foul trouble down the stretch. Lubitz sat for huge chunks of time and Seth Thomey fouled out with 5:03 left.
"It was a hard-fought game. We knew it was going to be a tough road game with Hillman and one of the biggest things for us is we got into foul trouble with Ben and Seth," Mio coach Dennis Kahn said.
Hillman on the other hand, overcame a tentative start and ultimately used its outside shooting prowess to overtake the Thunderbolts. Hillman trailed 13-7 at the end of the first quarter, but charged back into the game in the second quarter and led at halftime and after three quarters.
Mason VanPamel led Hillman with 18 points, Ty Jones had 12 and Gunnar Libby added 11.
The Tigers led 31-27 at halftime, but Mio fought back in the third quarter despite Lubitz spending nearly half the period on the bench. Bryce DeGrammont knotted the game at 37 with 2:56 left and a short time later Thomey tied the game 40-40 with a trey.
It was Libby who gave Hillman the lead again with 17 seconds left in the period, draining a trey of his own. His two free throws in the opening minute of the final quarter gave Hillman a 45-40 lead.
At that point, Hillman coach Eric Muszynski told his team to take things slow.
"He told us to just play our game and to stay calm and not to rush things," Jones said. "We get into a habit toward the end where we're up by a little bit and we start rushing ourselves and he told us not to do that."
DeGrammont managed to tie the game 47-47 with 5:06 left, but Hillman took control of the game from there. The Tigers were on the mark at the charity stripe, hitting 11-of-14 shots.
Lubitz ran into some early foul trouble and was forced to watch parts of the game, but he did his best to make an impact when he was on the floor. He scored six of Mio's final eight points and did everything he could to hit the final shot.
Lubitz helped the Thunderbolts race out to a 13-3 lead in the first quarter, scoring nine points as Hillman struggled to get in sync. He was whistled for two fouls early on though and with Lubitz on the bench, Hillman took over.
After back-to-back treys from Mike Klein and VanPamel, Klein tied the game 20-20 with 3:37 left in the second quarter. The back-to-back treys marked the start of a 15-2 for Hillman over the next 2:14 which put the Tigers up 23-18.
Hillman hit four three-pointers in the period, perhaps none bigger than VanPamel's buzzer beater which sent the Tigers to the locker room with a four-point lead.
Lubitz made an impact in the short time he played in the second quarter, hitting a trey and two free throws to pull Mio to within one, 26-25, with a minute and a half to play.
"He did a great job. He's a sophomore and he puts a lot of time in," Kahn said. "We told him if he sat down, he could see what he needed to do. For a kid that's only a sophomore, for him to be willing to do that, that's a huge thing.
HILLMAN (58): D. Ross 2 1-2 5; B. Zimmer 2 0-2 4; G. Libby 2 5-6 11; T. Powers 0 1-2 1; M. Klein 3 0-0 7; M. VanPamel 5 6-8 18; T. Jones 3 4-5 12.
MIO (55): B. Lubitz 10 2-2 24; B. DeGrammont 6 1-2 13; S. Thomey 4 4-4 13; C. Auten 2 0-0 5.
James Andersen can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.