The momentum continues
Hillman blasts Cedarville in regional semifinal victory
ST. IGNACE– So far this postseason, the Hillman boys basketball team has proven why it is one of the best in the state with multiple double digit victories.
The Tigers’ trend continued on Monday as they rolled past rival Cedarville 78-50 in a Class D regional semifinal game at La Salle High School in St. Ignace.
“I’m proud of the effort tonight. We have a ton of momentum right now and I’m not going to let them down and they’re not going to let me down,” Hillman coach Eric Muszynski said. “We’ve had a sour taste in our mouth since last year and I think what everyone’s seeing right now is a hungry team that is determined to play as good as they can.”
The Tigers (23-1) started off slow shooting from behind the three point line and Cedarville was effective early in its fast-paced offense and the Trojans were active on the glass, outrebounding Hillman in the first several minutes of the game and held a 15-8 lead with 3:35 left in the first quarter, forcing Muszynski to call a timeout.
The Tigers responded in a huge way out of the timeout as they scored the final 11 points to take a 19-15 lead after one.
Gunnar Libby began to take over as he scored the first five points of the second quarter and 13 of 14 points on the Tigers 14-0 run late in the first and early into the second quarter to help Hillman take a nine point lead.
“Early on we couldn’t get much going with our three point shooting, but we kept attacking inside and that opened up our outside shooting later in the first quarter and we were able to knock some big shots down,” Muszynski said.
After falling behind by double digits, Cedarville scored six straight to get to within four points, but it was close as the Trojans would get the rest of the game as Hillman went on another run and scored the final seven points of the half to take a 38-27 lead at the break.
“At half we talked about doing our half court trap and our big guys weren’t covering the middle of the floor and our front guys weren’t applying enough pressure,” Muszynski said. “We extended our defense more and our guys got aggressive and we were able to force more turnovers which led to points.”
Hillman came out of the locker room with a purpose and blew the game wide open in the third quarter as it went on a 21-5 run that lasted over five minutes in the quarter to take a commanding 59-34 lead with just over two minutes left in the third.
After building a huge lead, the Tigers were able to cruise the rest of the way and once again got a solid effort all around from their entire roster as Brandon Banks made several circus shots in the final quarter to put the game on ice. Hillman also got good performances from Kory Henigan and Chris Wittman who provided a spark off the bench throughout the game when Henigan ran into foul trouble.
“Chris gave us some great minutes and he has an outstanding ability to score and he did a tremendous job rebounding. I have full confidence in him and everyone on my roster “ Muszynski said.
Banks led the way for Hillman scoring a game high 19 points. Libby scored 18 points, Henigan added 14 points and Wittman chipped in with 11 points.
Cedarville was led by Chase Massey who scored 18 points. Tristan Masuga added 13 points and Dakota Fairchild chipped in with 10 points in the losing effort.
With the win, Hillman ties a school record for wins in a season with 23 set by the 2015 team. The Tigers advance to their second regional championship game in four years tomorrow when the play Pellston.
The Hornets topped Engadine 63-59 in overtime in the second regional semifinal on Monday.
“We’re just going to continue focusing on us and we’re just happy to be back on the big stage after being out two years,” Muszynski said. “Our guys are razor sharp right now. I work hard for my guys and they work hard for me. It’s a mutual respect and this team is hungry to bring home a regional title on Wednesday.”
HILLMAN (78): K. Henigan, 7 0-0 16; C. Wittman, 11 3-4 8; G. Libby, 6 3-5 18; J. Juergens, 1 0-0 3; B. Banks, 7 2-3 19; A. Funk, 2 0-0 4; B. Kolcan, 2 1-2 5; M. Hunt 2 0-0 4.
CEDARVILLE (50): T. Masuga, 6 0-0 13; A. Freel, 1 0-0 2; D. Fairchild, 3 1-2 10; C. Massey, 7 3-7 18; E. Rye, 2 1-2 5; T. Norris, 1 0-0 2.
Jonny Zawacki can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5690.