Tigers execute late
Hillman holds off Hurons for victory
ROGERS CITY — The first matchup of the season between Hillman and Rogers City didn’t quite live up to the hype as the Tigers ran away with a 21 point victory at home.
Thursday night went a bit different, but ended with the same result as Hillman was pushed to the limit, but eventually held on to defeat the Hurons by a final score of 52-42.
Rogers City had home court on its side, along with it being the team’s annual winterfest game. The Hurons answered the call early, but in the end Hillman proved why it is ranked number three in the state.
“It was a really good team effort tonight. We made a few more mistakes than we are accustomed to, but we did execute enough down the stretch to pull out a win,” Hillman coach John Kuzewski said.
Both team displayed solid defense early in the game as the two teams went back and forth as Rogers City was able to tie the game up several times throughout the night, but could never take a lead.
The Tigers took an 11-8 lead into the second quarter after a low scoring first quarter. Hillman scored the first basket of the second quarter to take a five point lead, but the Hurons responded with five unanswered points of its own to tie the game back up at 13 with just over four minutes left in the first half.
“We played really hard defensively. We had a game plan coming in on defense and we executed really well,” Rogers City coach Duane Pitts said. “We had a little trouble boxing out tonight, missed a few easy shots and missed to many free throws down the stretch and that hurt us tonight, but I was proud of my kids tonight.”
Hillman took a 21-19 lead into the half as Morgan Armon scored the Tigers final four points of the quarter before Jayna Hance hit two free throws for the Hurons to end the half.
“I thought at the half we hadn’t played our game yet. I told our girls we were ok,” Kuzewski said. “We didn’t play our best basketball tonight, but there were a few times, especially in the second half where we played well and executed and it showed up at the end.”
Rogers City wasted no time tying the game back up when Kayla Rabeau hit a shot to start the third quarter. The Tigers would not allow the score to remained tied for long as they went on a 9-0 run to open up a 30-21 lead less than three minutes into the quarter and forced Pitts to call a timeout.
The Hurons scored three straight points out of the timeout to get to within six, but after being quieted in the first half, Vanessa Schook started heating up as she scored seven of her game high 15 points in the third quarter to help the Tigers take a 39-32 lead after three quarters.
Eve LaFleche open the fourth quarter with a three-pointer to put Hillman ahead by double digits, but again the Hurons showed no signs of backing down as they scored six unanswered points to cut the lead back to four with 4:38 left in the game and force Kuzewski to use a timeout of his own.
“It was much better than the first time we played them. We’ll use this as a confidence builder heading into districts and continue working on some things and hopefully we’ll run into Hillman again,” Pitts said.
The Tigers responded after the timeout scoring 10 of the last 14 points in the contest. Hillman capitalized on its free throws down the stretch and Schook scored six points in the final two minutes to help Hillman win its 17th game in a row.
“Games like this are very beneficial this close to districts. These types of games help you out and we’re going to learn a lot from this game,” Kuzewski said.
Along with Schook’s 15 points, Armon added 13 points for Hillman. Andrea Taratuta collected nine points and LaFleche chipped in with eight points.
The Tigers improve to 17-1 overall on the year and are a perfect 15-0 in North Star League play. Hillman will close out the regular season on Monday when it hosts Fairview.
The Hurons were led by Hance who put together a solid performance, scoring 14 points. Taylor Fleming added 10 points and Rabeau chipped in with six points.
Rogers City falls to 14-5 overall and 11-3 in league play. The Hurons will end their regular season on Wednesday when they travel to Whittemore-Prescott.
HILLMAN (52) — V. Schook, 5 5-6 15; J. Appelgren, 1 1-4 3; M. Armon, 6 1-6 13; E. LaFleche, 2 3-4 8; A. Taratuta, 3 2-8 9; K. Kenyon, 1 0-1 2.
ROGERS CITY (42) — T. Fleming, 5 0-0 10; K. Rabeau, 2 2-4 6; H. Fleming, 1 1-4 3; J. Hance, 4 6-12 14; S. Purgiel, 1 0-1 2; B. Daniels, 1 1-2 3; D. Smillie, 1 2-2 4.
Jonny Zawacki can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5690.