A lack of energy

Tigers drop fifth straight with loss to Hale

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki Hillman’s Kory Henigan (40) scores on a layup while being defended by Hale defender Garrett Beebe (22) during the second quarter of a boys North Star League basketball game on Friday at Hillman High School.

HILLMAN — The Hillman boys basketball team has endured its share of struggles this season.

The Tigers entered Friday’s North Star League contest against Hale on a four-game losing skid and have lost a handful of close games during a difficult and frustrating year.

The frustration continued and so did the losing streak on Friday as Hillman fell to the Eagles by a score of 54-47 at Hillman High School.

“We haven’t won since December 20, so that’s definitely out there and we understand that. The biggest thing is I think we’ve lost our way a little bit, trying to figure out how to win,” Hillman coach Eric Muszynski said. “This is my 14th year and we built this basketball program on hustle, heart, desire and will. I think structurally and I’m not trying to say our system is perfect, but it doesn’t matter what you do at either end of the court, if you’re not intense, you’re going to struggle and that’s the one thing we really lack right now is intensity and that’s the one thing that bothers me a lot, because I feel like heart and despite and will is something that is very fixable.”

Hillman’s offensive struggles continued and despite playing a back-and-forth game during the first half, the Tigers struggled rebounding and Hale (9-4, 7-4 NSL) capitalized on second and third chance opportunities. Hillman (3-8, 3-8 NSL) also had no answer for Hale junior Joseph Kimmerer who scored a game-high 28 points and went a perfect 10-for-10 at the free-throw to lead the Eagles to victory.

The Tigers held a 14-12 lead early in the second quarter, but collapsed late in the half as Hale scored nine of the last 11 points to take a 21-16 lead into the break.

“We have a great group of kids. They have been through the program since third grade, but right now we’re 3-8 and you’d think we’d be hungrier than ever to pull out a win, but every time we get close, we kind of cower back a little bit and we’re just not in attack mode on the offensive end and the defensive end,” Muszynski said. “I told the guys that there are three things we need to do better. Hustle and heart sets us apart and that’s what has built our program, rebounding because we’ve given up easy baskets on put backs and we have to get in the gym and do the extra things. I have the guys two hours a day, but it’s the little extra you do after practice where you can shoot and we have to get back to that. We can’t just come in here expecting big things going two hours a day, four days a week.”

Hillman continued to battle throughout the third quarter, but still lacked the energy and intensity most are used to seeing from a Hillman boys basketball team.

Kimmerer scored eight of Hale’s 10 third quarter points as the Eagles held a 31-27 lead after three, but the early stages of the fourth quarter proved to be the difference as Hale scored six unanswered to take a double digit lead.

The Eagles were able to build on the lead as Kimmerer continued to find ways to score and scored eight more points in the fourth.

Despite a solid performance and a late spark from Kory Henigan who led Hillman with 25 points, it wasn’t enough as the Tigers came up short and suffered another tough loss.

“It’s been a tough adjustment, but I told the guys, I’m not going to stop coaching because I know that we have kids on this team that have dreamed of being a Hillman Tiger and kids watching that are dreaming the same thing and we have to understand that we have kids watching that are involved in this program and look up to these guys,” Muszynski said. “Like I said, they’re great kids, but at some point you have to put your big boy pants on and you have to understand that this is varsity basketball and it’s not about schematics, it’s about that fire in your gut and that’s one thing that we’ve lacked. There used to be a nostalgia coming into this gym and it’s a tough place to play, but everybody is discouraged. Our fan base is discouraged, our kids are discouraged and we’re cruising for the first losing season in 12 years if we don’t pick it up and that’s tough and a lot of pressure on a group. It’s difficult, but you can not be the most skilled team, but if you get at it, you can win ball games.”

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BOX SCORE: Field goals made/Free-throws made/Free-throws attempted/Total points

HALE (54): J. Kimmerer, 9 10-10 28; K. Brito, 0 1-2 1; G. Beebe, 2 1-3 5; T. Sauseda, 4 1-1 9; T. Kangas, 1 2-3 4; B. Bernard, 2 2-2 6; C. Ready, 0 1-2 1.

HILLMAN (47): S. Henigan, 1 0-0 2; C. Koenig, 1 0-0 3; E. Holford, 1 0-0 2; I. Morrison, 3 0-0 6; K. Henigan, 7 10-11 25; N. Taratuta, 4 0-0 9.