Hillman tops NSL rival Posen to end five-year title drought
ROGERS CITY-Anybody looking for a great game on Friday couldn’t have asked for more from the Hillman and Posen district final. Posen was looking to stretch its district championship streak to three years while Hillman was hoping to break that streak.
Hillman was able to capitalize on a dry spell from Posen in the second quarter to win 69-53.
This was Hillman’s first district in five years and they will face Pellston in Pellston in a regional semifinal on Tuesday.
It was the third time this season that Hillman has beat Posen and the second time Hillman has beaten a team three times this season.
“We had that bad stretch in the second that really hurt us. When we went into the game, I told the boys we had to keep the turnovers below 12. We had 18 and Hillman scored on just about every one of them,” Posen coach Steve Hentkowski said.
The first quarter ended 14-14 but Hillman was able to streak ahead in the second with Mike Klein leading the way with nine points.
“Mike (Klein) was really huge for us tonight offensively. Mike Olschanski was also a big help defensively,” Hillman coach Eric Muszynski said.
Other big players for Hillman in the second included Hunter Fessler and Mason VanPamel. Both players scored some points but were key to causing the vital turnovers that disrupted Posen’s offense and kept them off guard.
Both teams kept pace with each other for the latter part of the quarter. Luke Litwinski dropped 12 of his 14 points in the first quarter, including three treys to keep Posen in the game.
Posen was able to pick up seven threes on the night compared to Hillman’s two.
The Vikings had four players score on the night with three of them going into double digits: Travis Sharpe, Nick Hincka and Luke Litwinski.
Hillman was able to grab a 34-25 lead at the half due to its aggressive defensive and high octane scoring. The Tigers were able to maintain at least a nine-point lead throughout the rest of the game.
Sharpe hit a three in the third a minute into the third quarter, but Hillman had a 48-42 at the end of the third, despite Hincka scoring 12 points.
The defensive pressure from both teams was intensive and drew a lot of fouls but Hillman ended up on the positive end defensively more often than Posen.
“We knew we were going to have to throw a lot of defenses at them to keep them off guard, to shift at any moment,” Muszynski said.
The fourth quarter saw Hillman pull ahead even further as Posen’s offense began to dry up. The Tigers’ tough defense, especially from Fessler drew too many turnovers and stymied Posen’s drive.
Dylan Ross helped out the tigers by snatching down defensive rebounds that squashed Posen’s second and third chance scoring attempts.
However, the Vikings were able to keep Hillman to an eight-point lead with two minutes left. Posen then had to start fouling Hillman to stay in the game. The Tigers were able to hit nine of 10 free throws to stretch their lead further.
A Sharpe three-pointer at the buzzer was too little too late.
“Our freshman Travis Sharpe had a great night coming off the bench. Luke Litwinski was really great too. But Hillman played a great game and I give them a lot of credit,” Hentkowski said.
Muszynski mused over preparing for the regionals.
“It’s good to end the season on a high note like this. This is Hillman’s eighth district title. Saturday I’m gonna do my research on the teams and get us practicing strategy before the game on Tuesday,” Muszynski said.
Hillman (69): M. Olschanski 1-0-0-2: D. Ross 3-2-2-8: T. Jones 0-2-2-2: M. Klein 5-7-9-17: M. VanPamel 9-8-10-26: B. Zimmer 2-1-2-5: H. Fessler 4-0-2-9.
Posen (53): T. Sharpe 5-2-5-14: L. Litwinski 4-3-4-15: N. Hincka 8-4-6-21: B. Dietz 1-1-3-3.