PELLSTON- A lot of people may have doubted that the Hillman boys basketball team could swing with Cedarville in a Class D regional final.
Hillman may have been riding a nine game win streak, but No. 2 Cedarville was 21-1 was one of the top teams in the state.
Hillman proved its doubters wrong by going head-to-head with the Trojans in a 92-85 loss on Wednesday that went into double overtime and had fans from both sides of the gym on their feet and cheering.
"Well I'll tell you what, Cedarville is number two in the state and we went with them blow for blow all game. The boys really jived mentally since we started our streak in Au Gres. They got it in their head that they could beat anybody and I couldn't be any more proud of them," Hillman coach Eric Muszynski said.
Trailing late in the fourth qaurter, Hillman (17-6) narrowed the lead to 66-65 with a Mike Klein three pointer. Two free throws by Brad Causley seemed to put the game out of Hillman's reach. But as Mason VanPamel threw up a last-second desperation three pointer, he was pushed by a desperate Cedarville player and got to shoot three free throws with zero seconds left.
He made all three to tie the game at 68.
VanPamel went eight for nine free throws on the night and scored 17 points.
The first overtime saw the Trojans continuing to play the kind of high octane basketball that has kept them at the top in all but one of their games. Hillman was able to answer back and another last second three pointer by VanPamel helped the game stretch into double overtime with a score of 79-79.
Cedarville took solid control in the second overtime, but Hillman wasn't ready to give up. The Tigers ran into foul trouble though as Mike Olschanski and Klein fouled out, joining Ty Jones who fouled out with five seconds left in regulation.
"If we'd have had a little bit more luck with fouls and cut down on our turnovers, we could have won," VanPamel said.
Hillman no doubt stunned Cedarville as it took a 5-0 lead in the first quarter and stayed ahead the rest of the period. Jones, Olschanski and Dylan Ross went toe-to-toe with an aggressive Cedarville defense to help keep the Tigers ahead.
The Trojans were successful offensively but Hillman was able to grab enough rebounds and hit enough shots to take an 18-12 lead at the end of the quarter.
Jones led Hillman with 25 points and hit several triples during the game.
Cedarville used its full-court press to try to cause troubles for Hillman's offense in the second quarter and was able to cause some confusion and turnovers. However, the Trojans struggled under the basket and Olschanski and Hunter Fessler were able to take advantage of this struggle to snag several rebounds. This opened up more offense for Mike Klein and Jones, who combined for five threes in the period.
Klein was impressed by the fluidity of his teammates.
"It felt really great to come together like that as a team. It was definitely our best game of the season," he said.
Hillman was able to maintain control of the game for the rest of the second quarter, staying ahead 35-29 in spite of a last second Dan Stenbeck field goal.
The Trojans were able to assert themselves offensively against Hillman in the second half. The third quarter saw increasing pressure from Josh Hester, Todd Hecht and Stenbeck as Hillman began to struggle against the Trojans' press. The Trojans forced a lot of turnovers and steals on the struggling Tigers.
"We ran into a little trouble there at the end of the second and through the third. It wasn't the deciding factor but it gave us something to think about," Muszynski said.
The Trojans' pressure allowed them to take a 58-48 lead by the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter saw Klein and Jones continuing to sink three pointers as Cedarville continued to hit baskets and press defensively.
The Tigers fought hard to the end but were forced to foul the Trojans to regain control and struggled to hit the basket enough to win.
The Hillman players may have had tears in their eyes at the end of the game, but many of them couldn't have been happier.
"We lost but it still feels great. I couldn't be more proud of my boys, we played with the kind of heart and drive that we needed. Next season is going to be big. We're going to be practicing over the summer and working on getting better," Jones said.
Muszynski believes this game may put Hillman boys basketball on the map.
"Nobody gave little old Hillman much of a chance. All the 'experts' said we were going to lose by 30 or 40 points. Maybe coming in under the radar helped us and took Cedarville off guard. But we got no secrets now so we gotta make sure we improve even more for next year," he said.
Cedarville (92): K. Bouschor 9-3-5-22: J. Hester 10-1-3-23: J. Duncan 5-8-11-17: T. Hecht 2-0-0-4: D. Stenbeck 7-1-3-16: D. Griffin 3-0-0-3: B. Causley 1-4-5-7:
Hillman (85): M. Olschanski 5-0-1-10: D. Ross 1-2-2-4: T. Jones 10-0-1-25: M. Klein 9-1-4-21: M. VanPamel 4-8-9-17: B. Zimmer 1-2-4-4: B. Clark 1-0-0-2: H. Fessler 1-0-0-2.