Tigers declawed

Hillman beaten by St. Ignace in regional semifinal

News Photos by James Andersen TOP: St. Ignace junior center Emma Felleppa (42) scores a basket inside while being defended by Hillman senior Brooke Jones during the first half of a Division 4 regional semifinal game in Pellston on Monday. Felleppa finished with 12 points as the Saints topped Hillman 72-12. BOTTOM: Hillman’s Bailey Schook, left, drives by St. Ignace defender Emmalee Hart to score a basket during the second half of a Division 4 regional semifinal game in Pellston on Monday.

PELLSTON — The Hillman girls basketball team knew it faced a tall order matching up with a team like St. Ignace in the regional semifinals.

It didn’t the Saints long to show the Tigers just how tall of an order it was.

Stifling Hillman on both ends of the floor, St. Ignace made things look easy en route to a 72-12 rout of the Tigers in a Division 4 regional semifinal at Pellston High School.

It took the top-ranked Saints (24-0) all of five seconds to score Monday after St. Ignace won the jump ball and Emmalee Hart got an outlet pass for an easy layup. From there St. Ignace was off to the races, turning a pair of early Hillman turnovers into points and dominating the Tigers (12-12) from all angles.

St. Ignace’s post game was nearly unstoppable and on the rare occasions they missed inside, the Saints corralled the rebound to convert a second-chance opportunity or kicked the ball out to the arc and knocked down a three-pointer.

Emily Coveyou led St. Ignace with 17 points and was one of five Saints to finish in double figures. Madison Olsen had 14 points, Ally Schultz and Emma Felleppa each had 12 and Hallie Marshall chipped in with 10.

“We knew tonight was going to be a tall order to go up against St. Ignace,” Hillman coach John Kuzewski said. “St. Ignace is a great team, a well-coached team. They have a program that’s been like this for years. I give them a lot of credit, they know how to play the game of basketball.”

Alison Samp scored Hillman’s first bucket of the game with 6:14 left in the first quarter, converting on a baseline floater, but it did little to slow St. Ignace down. On defense the Saints consistently clogged Hillman’s passing lanes to force turnovers and often backed Hillman into traps it couldn’t get out of.

St. Ignace led 15-2 four minutes into the game and built a 27-2 lead by the end of the first quarter after Olsen beat the buzzer with a three-pointer. The Saints continued to work the ball inside as 6-foot Coveyou and 6-foot-2 Felleppa kept weaving their way through Hillman’s defense.

Anna Callender drained a three-pointer early in the second quarter for the Tigers and Samp and Bailey Schook each made a free throw, but an inability to get clean looks at the basket and too many turnovers sent Hillman into halftime trailing 55-7.

Schook led Hillman with six points and Samp and Callender each had three.

“I’m not disappointed with the effort from the girls on our team tonight. I thought we fought hard, we scrapped, especially in the second half, I think we dug in a little more,” Kuzewski said. “I can’t be prouder of the effort and our accomplishments and (the fact that) we were able to reach a couple of our goals this year.”

Hillman trailed 65-12 after three quarters, but Schook had one of her team’s few highlights, going coast-to-coast to score with 2:53 left in the period.

Despite the loss, Kuzewski called the 2018-19 season one of his most rewarding as a coach. The Tigers started the season 0-6 and battled low roster numbers as they struggled to stay competitive. It would have been easy for a team to throw in the towel, but around the 10th game of the year, Kuzewski noticed something different about his team.

“Sometimes I think you’ve got to fall down and get back up. Through six games, it felt like we’d fallen down (and) maybe reached the bottom,” Kuzewski said. “But once you reach the bottom you can start building your way back up and slowly and gradually that’s exactly what we did.”

Through the second half of the season, the Tigers were a completely different team. Hillman won six of its last 10 games and earned road wins over several teams that had beaten them at home earlier in the early including Posen, Rogers City and Mio.

The improved play down the stretch served as a precursor to a successful postseason run where the Tigers defeated Posen, Onaway and Wolverine over the course of five days to win their second district title in the last three seasons.

“I’ve had a lot of good teams come through and a lot of great players and sometimes we weren’t always able to accomplish the things we wanted to,” Kuzewski said. “This group came together at the right time, not only bought into the system, but put in the hard work that was necessary.”

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BOX SCORE: Field goals made/Free throws made/Free throws attempted/Total Points

ST. IGNACE (72): M. Olsen 6 0-0 14; E. Coveyou 7 3-4 17; E. Hart 2 0-0 4; E. Felleppa 6 0-1 12; A. Schultz 4 2-2 12; M. Huskey 0 1-2 1; H. Marshall 3 4-4 10; A. Hart 1 0-0 2.

HILLMAN (12): A. Samp 1 1-2 3; A. Callender 1 0-0 3; B. Schook 2 2-4 6.