Hillman wraps it up
Tigers top Hurons to earn 4th straight Big Dipper title
HILLMAN–For the fourth straight season, the Hillman girls basketball team is taking home some conference hardware.
Lyndsey Ryba scored 15 points, Brooke Jones added 13 and the Tigers defeated Rogers City 51-38 on Thursday to claim the North Star League’s Big Dipper division title for themselves on their home floor.
The win is Hillman’s 18th straight and marks the fourth consecutive season the Tigers have won their division. The Tigers celebrated the occasion by cutting down the nets after Thursday’s win.
“When you accomplish your goals, it’s a special night. Tonight we were able to cross off that first goal of ours,” Hillman coach John Kuzewski said. “Now we’re going to enjoy this tonight and we’re going to set our sights on our next goal.”
After Hillman (18-1, 15-0 NSL) earned hard-fought 44-41 victory in Rogers City last month, the rematch was far from a wire-to-wire battle. Hillman applied some defensive pressure early and took the Hurons (13-4, 13-2 NSL) out of the game offensively, limiting the Hurons chances from outside and pressuring the paint.
“Defense is always key and I thought it was especially important tonight. I thought our girls came out with great intensity,” Kuzewski said. “We hang our hat on playing defense and it set the tone tonight.”
Hillman led 17-9 after one quarter and pushed its lead to double digits early in the second quarter, going on to lead 38-14 at halftime.
“Well I thought for the first time tonight that we played like a bunch of individuals and we didn’t play like a team. The stuff we were working on in practice, they didn’t do anything different than what they did to us when they were in Rogers City,” Rogers City coach Duane Pitts said. “We kind of froze like a deer in headlights tonight and I don’t know the pressure of the big game got to us or what, but there’s something that we’ve got to correct and fix so we can play against these top level teams and then compete with them on a regular basis.”
Hillman’s pressure forced numerous turnovers and the Tigers responded on the other end with patient offense. Quick passes seemed to work best for Hillman and time and again Rogers City had no answer.
With Hillman leading early in the first quarter, Ryba switched directions in the lane for an open layup and then seconds later stole the ball and scored. Midway through the second quarter, she went end to end and drove past multiple defenders in the lane for a basket.
Late in the second quarter, Jones missed a shot, grabbed her own rebound and made the basket. With seconds left in the first half, Andrea Taratuta drove the baseline and sank a short jumper to send Hillman to the break with a sizable lead.
Hillman cashed in at the charity stripe as well. Jones was particularly effective in drawing contact and drained 7-of-8 free throws in the first half as Hillman went 12-of-14 from the line in the first 16 minutes.
Taratuta added nine points for Hillman in the winning effort Kristen Kenyon had eight and Eve LaFleche had five.
“That’s what we’ve pretty much been doing all year long and that what makes it fun to coach this team because when you look at our scorebook at the end of a game, you have maybe a couple players in double figures, but you also have players with seven, eight, nine and it’s like that every night,” Kuzewski said.
Taylor Fleming led Rogers City with 15 points and attempted to rally the Hurons back in the third quarter. Fleming threaded her way inside for seven points and the Hurons pulled to within 16 with five minutes left. Fleming ran into foul trouble early and sat for the first several minutes of the second quarter as Hillman began to pull away.
Hannah Fleming, who added eight points for the Hurons, hit several key shots as well during Rogers City’s third quarter run. It proved to be too little to late for the Hurons, who trailed 44-29 after three quarters.
Rogers City’s JV team defeated Hillman 43-36.
BOX SCORE: Field goals made/Free throws made/Free throws attempted/Total Points
HILLMAN (51): B. Jones 3 7-8 13; L. Ryba 7 1-2 15; K. Kenyon 3 2-2 8; A. Taratuta 3 2-2 9; E. LaFleche 2 1-4 5; J. Appelgren 0 1-2 1.
ROGERS CITY (38): J. Hance 1 2-4 4; T. Fleming 6 3-7 15; L. Hentkowski 1 0-0 3; B. Daniels 1 0-0 2; H, Fleming 3 2-2 8; S. Purgiel 1 0-0 2; Kay. Rabeau 0 0-1 0; Kar. Rabeau 1 0-0 2; J. Schalk 1 0-0 2.