Answering the call

Hurons rally past Cardinals in overtime 51-46

News Photo by James Andersen Rogers City’s Jacob Hilla (23) drives to the basket while being defended by Whittemore-Prescott’s Kyle Colton during the first half of a boys basketball game on Monday at Rogers City High School.

ROGERS CITY–In the midst of a back-and-forth battle, Rogers City boys basketball coach Matt Ponik told his team that someone had to step up and answer the call against Whittemore-Prescott on Monday.

Jacob Hilla got the message loud and clear.

Hilla scored 19 points, including seven in overtime to help the Hurons to a 51-46 win over Whittemore-Prescott. The win is the Hurons’ fifth straight.

Rogers City (5-1) led through most of regulation, but after 32 minutes the game was tied 42-42. With the Hurons’ winning streak on the line, Hilla came up big for Rogers City, driving inside and along the baseline for some important buckets that ultimately kept the Hurons ahead.

“The game plan was to attack their big guys, go at them and don’t be afraid of them,” Ponik said. “Jake Hilla went to the hole and he kind of saved us in the overtime and in the fourth quarter by being aggressive, getting to the line and putting pressure on them which actually opened up a couple shots for a lot of guys.”

Whittemore rallied late in the fourth quarter and narrowly missed a game-winning buzzer beater. But when overtime began, the Cardinals turned the ball over several times and had trouble finishing at the basket. In the extra four minutes, the Hurons outscored Whittemore 9-4.

Rogers City led 34-31 after three quarters and stretched its lead to seven with four minutes left before the Cardinals rallied. Azaiyah Bell and Hunter Pipesh both knocked down three-pointers for Whittemore down the stretch and Pipesh’s trey tied the game 42-42 with 2:07 left.

With regulation winding down, the Hurons were called for a violation with three seconds left and a last second heave by Bell for the win fell just short.

The win came as something of a relief for the Hurons after a slow start to the game. Both teams were sloppy early and Rogers City led 6-4 after eight minutes. Whittemore got up and down the floor with ease, but had trouble finishing at the basket and went nearly 10 minutes without scoring during a long first half stretch as the Hurons turned up the defense.

“There was a lot of adjustments, trying to match up with their speed and their shooters,” Ponik said. “It’s a difficult matchup, that’s why it was kind of a chess game back and forth. I was a lot of subs tonight because I had to match that.”

The Hurons found their rhythm in the second quarter and opened the period on an 11-0 run to stretch their lead to 17-4.

Whittemore may have been down, but in a matter of minutes the Cardinals proved they weren’t out. Spurred on by triples from Bell and Bobby Maxwell, Whittemore went on a 9-0 run that cut Rogers City’s lead to four with 1:10 left in the half.

Trailing 19-13 at halftime, Whittemore rallied again to start the third quarter with Bell leading the charge. A trey from him cut the Hurons’ lead to one early and his score on a 3-on-1 tied the game 26-26 with 3:21 left.

Bell led Whittemore with 21 points.

The Hurons responded in kind, attacking the paint and finding success as Caleb Karsten and Evan Delke were among those who came up with key baskets late.

“It was a total team effort. It was a back-and-forth game, a lot of adjustments on our side,” Ponik said. “A lot of guys stepped up on defense, getting those stops late in the game.”

Rogers City plays at Mio on Thursday.

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ROGERS CITY (51): J. Hilla 8 3-6 19; B. Koss 1 0-2 2; M. Altman 4 0-0 8; P. Grambau 0 1-2 1; C. Karsten 3 2-2 8; A. Radke 3 0-0 6; Z. Grzesikowski 0 1-2 1; E. Delke 3 0-0 6; J. Hein 0 0-2 0.

WHITTEMORE-PRESCOTT (46):S. Edmonds 2 1-4 5; A. Bell 9 0-2 21; B. Maxwell 3 1-2 8; K. Colton 2 0-0 4; H. Pipesh 2 0-0 6; T. Harrison 1 0-0 2.