They’re on the attack
Tigers catch fire in regional semifinal win over Suttons Bay
TRAVERSE CITY–Throughout the season the Hillman boys basketball team has shown that it can’t be stopped and opposing teams can only hope to contain the Tigers.
For one quarter, Suttons Bay contained the Tigers and it came out with a game plan to slow the tempo and the Norsemen held a lead after one quarter. But Hillman caught fire in a big way and got a strong performance out of Jared Juergens as the Tigers passed the unexpected test that was Suttons Bay and advanced to their second consecutive regional championship game with a 71-62 victory over the Norsemen on Monday in a Class D regional semifinal.
“One thing we did early on is we just talked about attacking. I thought we were pretty hesitant early on and we were generating steals off our press, but just weren’t converting on them,” Hillman coach Eric Muszynski said. “We just talked about calming down. It’s a big stage with the first game of regionals, it was a loud gymnasium and we just knew it was a matter of execution and we continued to look for our shots.”
Hillman found its rhythm and started knocking down shots after trailing 13-9 at the end of one quarter. The two teams went back and forth early in the second quarter and the score was tied at 16 with just over five minutes left in the half.
From there, the Tigers got hot and went on a 10-0 run to take a double digit lead and force a Suttons Bay timeout.
Hillman was able to extend its lead in the late stages of the half as the Tigers found their stroke from beyond the three point line and they hit six triples. Four of which came from Juergens who had the hot hand early as he dropped 18 of his team high 22 points in the first half to help Hillman take a 38-25 lead into the break.
“It was huge. Some guys struggled early on and Jared stepped up,” Muszynski said. “He’s a first team all conference my eyes and he’s been doing it all year for us. Talk about huge, big games big players show up and I think that’s what Juergens did here tonight.”
The Tigers continued to hold a comfortable lead in the third quarter and had an answer every time Suttons Bay tried cutting into the lead. Hillman kept its 13-point lead heading into the fourth quarter as it led 54-41.
After building its largest lead of the night 61-47 with five minutes left, Muszynski got called for his first technical foul in 14 years after Hillman was charged with a foul before the technical was given.
The Norsemen took advantage of the opportunity as they hit three of four free throws, scored on the ensuing possession and scored another basket to quickly cut the lead to 61-54 with four minutes to play.
The Tigers kept their poise and played like an experienced group as they closed out the game strong and made free throws late to advance to a second straight regional championship game.
“Tonight you saw great senior leadership. After I received the technical we didn’t skip a beat and these guys are leaders on the floor and they’ve been doing that year,” Muszynski said. “To think we have a chance for back-to-back regional titles with only having won two in our school’s history is special. Credit to these guys because they come out every day and answer the bell.”
Along with solid play from Juergens, Hillman had balanced scoring across the board again as Brandon Banks finished with 14 points, Andrew Funk added 11 and Billy Kolcan scored 10 points as four of the five starters scored in double figures.
The Norsemen were led by Thomas Hursey who poured in a game high 32 points and did everything he could to keep Suttons Bay in the game.Garrett Kieth added 13 and Garrett Shananaquet finished with 12 points.
Hillman advances to Wednesday’s regional championship game where they will meet a familiar foe in North Star League rival Mio.
The Thunderbolts topped Central Lake 61-40 behind 18 points from freshman Drew Hess.
The Tigers swept the regular season series against Mio and will look for a third victory on Wednesday to capture another regional crown.
BOX SCORE: Field goals made/Free throws made/Free throws attempted/Total Points
HILLMAN (71): J. Juergens 8 1-2 22; B. Kolcan 3 4-4 10; B. Banks 5 1-2 14; A. Funk 4 0-0 11; M. Hunt 0 2-2 2; K. Henigan 1 2-5 4; N. Taratuta 3 2-2 8.
SUTTONS BAY (62): B. Opie 1 0-0 2; T. Hursey 10 8-10 32; L. Mikesell 1 0-0 2; Gav. Shananaquet 0 1-4 1; G. Kieth 6 1-2 13; Gar. Shananaquet 2 7-10 12.
Jonny Zawacki can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5690.