The 2019-2020 Hillsboro boys’ basketball season officially ended around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night, Feb. 26, after the final buzzer of the first semi-final game of the Gillespie Regional, but realistically it was over halfway through the first quarter when the Mater Dei Knights held an 11-1 lead.
The Knights’ famed pressure defense, a one-two-two three quarter court press, had already damaged the Toppers’ mind set. The point was manned by a very athletic senior, 6’6” Caleb Zurliene, and the back pair included 6’5” junior Mitchell Haake. Their wing spans and jumping abilities were complimented by a trio of ball-hawking, pass anticipating guards whose quickness to the ball made ball handling difficult.
The Knights were hard to dribble past or through; if a pass was floated high, the wings were like good cornerbacks on a football field ready to intercept and break the other way.
The Toppers’ first point was a Nic Ondrey free throw after two and a half minutes of play; after it was 11-1, a field goal by Gavin Matoush and a trey from Jace Tuetken temporarily gave Hillsboro hope.
However, the athleticism that gave Mater Dei their defensive prowess was matched by their offense. Their fast breaks were well-done, their long distance shooting was efficient, their inside game was powerful.
To an objective fan they are fun to watch as they execute; if one is a fan of the team victimized by the execution, it isn’t as enjoyable. With 5:45 left in the first half, Hillsboro trailed 37-13.
For Hillsboro, only Drake Vogel (two field goals) could score in the second quarter while the Knights had 17 points, nine by guard Grant Goebel. Shortly after the second half began, the Knights substituted freely. Ten MD players scored in the lop-sided affair; guard Jacob Schadegg (12), Haake (12), and reserve Carson Loepker (10) were in double figures for the Clinton County team.
Hillsboro won the second half, 31-29, but because the MD lead had been over 30 at halftime, the last quarter was a running clock affair. Point leaders for the Toppers were Ondrey and Vogel with 12 each. Of interest to Topper fans were a banked-in trey by senior Ethan Blankenship, whose relative inexperience limited his playing time this season, and two free throws by freshman Will Christian, who saw his first varsity action after dressing only for the regional Tournament.
Mater Dei played Breese Central Friday night for the regional title; the Cougars were without their 6’6” junior center Kyle Athmer, who was injured during the regular season. The Knights won the battle of the teams from Clinton County.
February 26 at Gillespie
Class 2A Gillespie Regional
Hillsboro 13 4 15 16 48
Mater Dei 24 27 20 9 80
Hillsboro (48) - Nic Ondrey 12, Drake Vogel 12, Gavin Matoush 8, Jace Tuetken 8, Brock Bellaver 3 Ethan Blankenship 3, Will Christian 2. Totals: 18-46 7-10 48.
Mater Dei (80) - Jacob Schadegg 12, Mitchell Haake 12, Carson Loepker 10, Grant Goebel 9, Caleb Zurliene 8, Alden Moss 8, Zach Napovanice 7, Parker Johnson 6, Ben Kaiser 4, Jacob Patton 2.
Three-point field goals: Hillsboro 5 (Vogel 2, Tuetken 1, Bellaver 1, Blankenship 1); Mater Dei 9 (Schadegg 3, Johnson 2, Loepker 2, Goebel 1, Napovanice 1).
Records: Hillsboro (11-22); Mater Dei (26-5).