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Defense, fast start lead Hillman to win

News Photo by James Andersen Hillman’s Zachary Kazyaka (34) drives past Fairview’s Aaron Eaves during the first half of a boys basketball game on Monday in Hillman.

HILLMAN–Lockdown defense and a fast start on offense helped the Hillman boys basketball team ring in 2020 with a win.

Isaac Morrison scored a career-high 23 points, including five three-pointers and the Tigers breezed by Fairview 56-29 at Hillman High School on Monday.

Buoyed by the return of senior point guard Nash Steinke and the hot shooting of Morrison, the Tigers (2-2, 2-1 North Star League) ran out to a 16-2 lead to begin the game and didn’t look back.

“When you play that style of defense and we’ve got the intensity we had here tonight early it makes all the difference in the world,” Hillman coach Eric Muszynski said. “I thought the guys brought that here tonight, especially with a long layoff from break.”

Morrison hit Hillman’s first basket of the game and kept heating up from there. With Hillman’s defensive pressure forcing numerous Fairview turnovers, Hillman pushed the tempo offensively and converted on open looks. During a stretch of 2:05, Hillman scored 12 unanswered points, all on three-pointers and Morrison had three of them.

He ultimately finished the first half with 21 after burying two more triples early in the second quarter and driving the lane for a buzzer beater to end the half, giving Hillman a 35-16 lead.

“Issac’s got the potential to do that. He’s at full strength this year and he’s been doing a lot of things well,” Muszynski said. “I think the game’s starting to slow down for him a little bit and it was good to see him to that tonight.”

In his first game of the season, Steinke finished with 18 points to give the Tigers to starters in double figures and was a welcome presence as a defensive leader.

“Really these guys are growing a lot daily. A lot of the things that we do schematically on defense take some time, especially with a lot of guys we have who are new to varsity,” Muszynski said. “I thought we played well tonight, especially in spurts. Early on, we had great intensity. Nash set the tone pretty well and it allowed us to move some guys around and get them in some natural positions and it did look good.”

Fairview trailed 23-9 after one quarter and struggled against Hillman’s pressure. The Eagles occasionally got by the defense for open looks, but more often than not, the Eagles shooters let shots fly as soon as they got to the perimeter.

Aaron Eaves led Fairview with 10 points and Zach Freel had nine.

Hillman’s intensity continued into the second half as the Tigers started the third quarter on a 10-0 run and led 50-20 after three quarters.

Hillman plays at Au Gres on Thursday.

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HILLMAN (56): I. Morrison 9 0-0 23; S. Henigan 2 0-0 5; Z. Kazyaka 1 2-2 4; N. Steinke 7 2-3 18; J. Dove 0 0-3 0; G. Mellingen 1 0-0 2; A. Sobeck 0 2-2 2; B. Firman 1 0-0 2.

FAIRVIEW (29): I. Ford 2 0-0 4; A. Freeland 2 2-2 6; A. Eaves 4 2-4 10; Z. Freel 4 0-0 9.

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