No taming the Tigers
Hillman captures fifth district title in six years with win over Posen
ROGERS CITY — It was business as usual for the Hillman boys basketball team on Friday as it competed in its sixth consecutive district championship game and came away victorious for the fifth time during this remarkable run as the Tigers blew out Posen 69-32 en route to back-to-back district titles.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my guys. One thing we do here is sacrifice individual accolades for team accolades and I think tonight you saw a group collectively work together with one goal in mind to win a district,” Hillman coach Eric Muszynski said. “Everybody across the board sacrifices to hang banners and to have years where you win championships. They’re not easy and I know we’ve won five out of six, but every day is a grind and my guys show up every day and work hard for me and I work hard for them. I’m glad we were rewarded as a team here today winning another district.”
The Tigers (22-0) wasted no time jumping all over Posen as they opened the game on a 14-2 run to take control early and from there Hillman never looked back. The Tigers were hot from beyond the three point line early, draining four triples in the opening quarter to take a 22-7 lead.
The Vikings (8-14) did everything they could to try and stay in the game during the second quarter. They cut the lead back to single digits with just under five minutes to play, but Hillman proved to be too much and closed the first half strong, taking a comfortable 38-20 lead into the break.
“I thought we played a little bit too timid on offense. That may have been my fault, maybe I didn’t do a good enough job coaching them in practice. It’s hard for us to play a team like Hillman. You have to be able to slow them down, but we play very fast, so it’s unnatural for my kids to slow things down. Against other teams it’s not a problem for us to play fast, but here we have to play slow and that’s not something we do,” Posen coach Chris Keller said. “I think all year we were one of the scrappiest teams in the league and that’s what I expected from my team. I really couldn’t be more proud. Would I have liked to win more games, of course, but we made huge improvements and I only see us getting better. Second season as a coach and we’re playing in a district championship, obviously I couldn’t do it without those boys. I’m upset with the loss, but happy with the improvement we made this season.”
The Tigers blew the game wide open early in the third quarter as they scored 17 straight second half points to build a 55-20 lead. Hillman outscored the Vikings 19-3 in the third quarter and coasted to a big victory.
It was another balanced effort across the board for the orange and black as Hillman was led by Brandon Banks, Andrew Funk and Kory Henigan who all finished with 14 points apiece, while Jared Juergens and Billy Kolcan scored 10 points each as the Tigers starting five all finished in double figures.
Jared Sharpe paced the Vikings with eight points, Sam Brunet added six and Mark Wisniewski and Jeremy Misiak each finished with five points.
With the win, Hillman advances to Monday’s regional semifinal game at Traverse City Central where it will face off against a Suttons Bay team who pulled off a huge upset Friday, defeating No. 4 ranked Frankfort 45-42 to claim a second consecutive district title.
“It is a shocker and it goes to show you that anything can happen in March. If anything I think it will give us a little more zoned in, not that you have to be in regional play, but we’ve got everything on everyone and it’s definitely an interesting twist, but it should keep us sharp and give us a reminder that anything can happen,” Muszynski said. “We’ll do our thing and do what we normally would to prep for a regional and the game has to be played. Suttons Bay did the same thing to them (Frankfort) last year and they’re a good squad and really well coached. I look forward it and I just tell me guys that it’s precious and how difficult it can be to get to this point. We’re going to cherish this and live in the moment, give ourselves a shot and hopefully good things will happen on Monday.”
BOX SCORE: Field goal made/Free throws made/Free throws attempted/Total points
HILLMAN (69): A. Funk 5 0-0 14; B. Banks 4 3-4 14; B. Kolcan 4 2-2 10; J. Juergens 4 0-0 10; E. Holford 0 0-2 0; K. Henigan 7 0-2 14; N. Taratuta 2 0-0 4; C. Sanders 0 2-5 2; I. Morrison 1 0-0 2.
POSEN (32): J. Sharpe 2 2-2 8; M. Wisniewski 2 0-0 5; J. Misiak 2 0-0 5; S. Brunet 3 0-2 6; C. Paull 2 0-1 4; G. Kaszubowski 0 1-2 1; E. Hincka 1 0-0 3.