Hillman continues season turnaround with district title victory

Courtesy Photo Members of the Hillman girls basketball team pose with a district title after defeating Wolverine on Friday. The team from left to right is: back: head coach John Kuzewski, Ellie Crawford, Alison Samp, Brooke Jones, Bailey Schook, Jessica Jones, Anna Callender, assistant coach Simone Clink and assistant coach Jessica Barbeau; front: Emma Libby, Davi Stewart and Melanie Morrison.

WOLVERINE–The Hillman girls basketball completed a dramatic season turnaround on Friday, defeating Wolverine 52-41 to win a Division 4 district championship.

Brooke Jones scored 17 points, Bailey Schook added 15 and Melanie Morrison had 11 as the Tigers (12-11) made a late defensive switch and ended the game on an 11-0 run.

The win gives Hillman its second district title in three seasons and moves the Tigers to a regional semifinal matchup with St. Ignace at 6 p.m. on Monday in Pellston.

“(Friday’s win shows that) Hillman (girls) basketball is still a very good program,” Hillman coach John Kuzewski said. “We have athletes who are talented, know how to play and know how to win.”

Hillman’s district title win came after a tough week of district play and an up-and-down regular season. Hillman started 0-6, but has won nine of its last 11 games and its last five in a row.

The Tigers ran the gauntlet this week, defeating Posen 48-46 in a hotly contested quarterfinal on Monday and got by Onaway 57-50 in a Wednesday semifinal.

“The one thing I kept saying (during our opening stretch) was that we would be playing better basketball by the end of the season,” Kuzewski said.

Hillman had to work for it again on Friday as the Wildcats pushed the Tigers into the fourth quarter. Hillman led 9-7 after one quarter and 24-20 at halftime, despite making just 3-of-14 shots from the free throw line.

The Tigers upped their lead to 37-30 after three quarters, but the Wildcats didn’t go away quietly and worked to tie the game 41-41 with three minutes left before Hillman’s final run.

“No district final should be easy and this definitely was not,” Kuzewski said. “Give Wolverine credit, we jumped out early, but they caught back up.”

Kuzewski credited his team’s work ethic and said the Tigers’ whole team effort was key during its district title run.

“I can’t be prouder of the effort. We played three tough teams, three physical games and we won all of them,” Kuzewski said. “We’ve gotten contributions from everybody and as a coach you love to see that.”

The Saints (23-0), Division 4’s top-ranked team, won their 11th consecutive district championship on Friday, defeating Pickford 84-41.