They’re still rolling

Tigers rout Inland Lakes at home

News Photo by James Andersen Hillman’s Autumn Jones, right, drives in for a layup while being defended by Inland Lakes’ Mara Clancy during the first quarter of a girls basketball game Monday in Hillman.

HILLMAN–Hillman girls basketball coach John Kuzewski saw a lot of potential in his team this summer.

But he has to admit, he’s a little surprised at just how well the Tigers are playing right now.

The latest example came on Monday as the Tigers routed Indian River Inland Lakes 58-10 at Hillman High School. The win is the sixth straight for the Tigers (6-1) and is also Hillman’s sixth straight win by double digits.

Lyndsey Ryba scored 17 points and Bailey Schook and Andrea Taratuta added nine and eight points respectively for a Tigers’ squad that had plenty of offense to match what Kuzewski said was his team’s best defensive effort of the year.

“Definitely it always starts with defense and I thought tonight we played a complete game on defense; the first time all year and I’m really happy with my girls’ effort tonight,” Kuzewski said.

From the opening jump ball, Hillman hounded Inland Lakes, stifling the Bulldogs in a full-court press as easily as a half-court defense.

At the head of Hillman’s defensive efforts was senior Eve LaFleche, who did a little bit of everything. LaFleche made her presence known early, swatting two pass attempts in the first quarter. From there, she was all over the floor, getting into passing lanes for steals, blocking shots and grabbing rebounds. She contributed on the offensive end too with four points.

“Eve has really, really stepped up her game this year. I see it on the defensive end; the little things most people don’t see, I see,” Kuzewski said. “She’s playing really well and seems to be in the right spot at the right time.”

Hillman led 30-5 at halftime and outscored the Bulldogs 19-0 in the third quarter. With most of the starters on the bench, Hillman’s reserves saw extended playing time and kept up Hillman’s steady offensive pace. Autumn Jones and Jozie Appelgren each added six points off the bench and Brooke Jones also scored six.

Mara Clancy led Inland Lakes with seven points and broke a scoreless stretch of more than 10 minutes for the Bulldogs with a basket with 6:03 to play.

Hillman scored the game’s first three points before Clancy scored to make it 3-2. From there, Hillman was off and running and led 17-2 after eight minutes. With its defense rolling, Hillman’s offense followed suit. Ryba led Hillman’s charge, driving in for uncontested layups and the Tigers shared the scoring load as six different players scored in the first quarter.

Hillman put together a 21-0 run in the first half that lasted more than eight minutes and limited the Bulldogs to three points in the second quarter.

The Tigers are off now for Christmas break and even with tough tests ahead, they’ll go into the break on a high note.

“We played a lot of games this summer and I saw some potential,” Kuzewski said. “Right now though, I don’t want to say we’re ahead of schedule, but I like where we’re at, especially on the defensive end.”

Hillman’s JV team defeated Inland Lakes 42-17. Jessica Jones led Hillman with 11 points, Makenna Grulke added 10 and Melanie Morrison chipped in with six. Ava Hansel led the Bulldogs with 11 points.

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HILLMAN (58): B. Jones 3 0-0 6; K. Kenyon 0 2-4 2; L. Ryba 7 2-4 17; A. Taratuta 3 2-3 8; E. LaFleche 2 0-0 4; B. Schook 4 1-2 9; A. Jones 3 0-0 6; J. Appelgren 2 2-2 6.

INLAND LAKES (10): M. Clancy 3 0-0 7; S. Vizina 1 0-0 2; S. DePauw 0 1-2 1.