The bus trip between Hillsboro and Nokomis has been a fearful one for the Toppers since Steve Kimbro became the head basketball coach in 1981; when the Hiltoppers headed northeast on Rt. 16 Saturday evening, Feb. 8, Kimbro’s varsity team had won 22 of 24 meetings. When they returned, Kimbro’s winning percentage was 92% as his team prevailed again, 53-49. (Overall, the Toppers still hold a 70-44 advantage, perhaps to be expected because of the size of the schools - but that makes Kimbro’s record even more amazing.)
The Toppers’ wins came under Coach Dyke Buerkett ( in the undefeated regular season of 1998-99) and current coach Joe Vanzo, 46-41 in the Litchfield Invitational Tournament - neither happened in Nokomis.
This game held true to form despite a 38-38 tie entering the fourth quarter. It began poorly for Hillsboro, who trailed 26-13 with 3:51 to play in the second quarter. The vaunted ball press defense didn’t force many Hillsboro turnovers, but the presence of 6’8” Carter Sabol and 6’0” Jake Johnson, whose leaping ability made him seem taller, did make a difference as once again the Toppers were susceptible to offensive rebound putbacks. It took treys by Drake Vogel and Jace Tuetken to keep Hillsboro as close as they were.
Then Vogel caught fire while Gavin Matoush came close to ignition as the Toppers closed to within four by halftime. At one point Vogel, whose six steals led his team in that category, grabbed the ball at his defensive baseline and scored at the other end with a twisting, looping reverse layup. Matoush added two field goals to shift the momentum to the Toppers.
Sabol was the stabilizer for Nokomis; the Lake Land baseball recruit had 11 points in the first half and 12 in the second to lead all scorers (he had 43% of the Redskin points) despite Matoush and Brock Bellaver playing good defense against him.
Guard Alex Tosetti also had a major impact in a short appearance. Tosetti has battled injury problems since January, but with only Sabol scoring effectively in the third quarter, Tosetti came in with 31 seconds left. A Bellaver three (Hillsboro had six treys, Nokomis 0) had given Hillsboro a 35-34 lead. Two Sabol free throws gave the Redskins a one point advantage; a Tuetken trey made it 38-36, visitors. That’s when Tosetti brought his energy and quickness into the fray, and Sabol’s eighth point of the quarter produced the tie.
When Tosetti drilled a 15 foot jumper as the last quarter began, Hillsboro’s moments of being ahead were over. Johnson slipped open to make the lead four, and Tosetti’s night was over. Sabol scored the next basket, Nokomis was ahead and thus in charge of the tempo, and Topper hopes for a comeback were disappearing. Hillsboro didn’t quit as Ondrey had seven points until the buzzer (and Matoush was three of four from the line), but Nokomis made just enough free throws to win (Kendall Knodle made four and Evan Herpstreith one) in the last two minutes.
An upset, at least if one picks winners by the records, did occur in the junior varsity game, though, as Hillsboro rode seven treys (for 21 points) by Brady Meier and twelve points each by Will Christian and Blaze Helton to a 54-47 win. Hillsboro’s j.v. team is now 5-6 while Nokomis is 12-6.
This week Hillsboro plays at Staunton on Tuesday, at Pana on Friday, and against Auburn here on Saturday. The junior varsity game begins at 2 p.m. with the varsity game to follow.
Nokomis hosts Pawnee on Tuesday and Vandalia Saturday; that junior varsity game tips at 3 p.m. with varsity to follow.
February 8 at Nokomis
Hillsboro 7 17 14 11 49
Nokomis 15 13 10 15 53
Hillsboro (49) - Drake Vogel 13, Nic Ondrey 11, Jace Tuetken 10, Gavin Matoush 9, Brock Bellaver 3, Dillon Smail 3. Totals: 19 5-11 49.
Nokomis (53) - Carter Sabol 23, Jake Johnson 9, Seth Johnson 6, Evan Herpstreith 5, Kendall Knodle 4, Elijah Aumann 4, Alex Tosetti 2. Totals: 19 15-28 53.
Three-point field goals: Hillsboro 6 (Tuetken 2, Vogel 1, Smail 1, Ondrey 1); Nokomis 0.
Records: Hillsboro (9-17); Nokomis (17-9).