Sports fans who enjoy exciting contests should have been in Rochester Tuesday evening, November 23, when Hillsboro and Rochester opened their 2021 boys’ seasons. Not only would they have witnessed closeness (the game was decided in overtime), but spirited play and controversial refereeing added to the intensity before Rochester won.
Hillsboro was ahead, but barely, after eight minutes as junior guard Will Christian had six of his game high 25 points in the opening quarter. Many of Christian’s points came because of his ability to penetrate and convert difficult angle shots; he was also 10 of 12 from the free throw line to key his career high. Countering him for the Rockets were long distance bombs; three kept them close as they trailed 17-16 at the first buzzer.
At halftime the score was tied 31-31, a premonition of future events. One of the Rocket points came on a free throw after a Topper was called for a technical foul; generally the officials allows a physical style of play, more typical of the larger school Central State Conference than of Hillsboro’s South Central games. By halftime Rocket junior guard Adam Staley had eight of his fifteen points; the hosts made ten threes, including one by 6’3’’ senior Adam Anderson to start overtime. (Hillsboro would finish with five threes spread among five players.)
A Topper three by Blaine Stewart near the end of the third quarter provided Hillsboro with a 49-45 lead with the possession arrow-pointing in their direction, but the game wasn’t well in hand. Using a deeper bench (Hillsboro played seven; Rochester had nine players score, five in double figures), the Rockets jumped to a 55-51 lead two minutes, 45 seconds into the last quarter. Their deeper bench helped in another way; the hosts fouled 22 times in the game, Hillsboro only 16, but only the Toppers had a player foul out.
It was 60-55, Rochester, and they had the ball with a minute left to play, but a Drake Vogel steal allowed Christian to drive, score, and shoot a free throw; losing composure, a Rocket then took an ill-advised shot. Blaze Helton grabbed the rebound, and Vogel made two free throws to tie the game.
A Hillsboro steal in the last five seconds gave the Toppers a chance to win in regulation, but then the controversy arose. As Christian moved to the basket, whistles blew. The official nearer the play called a foul on the Rockets, but the trail official called a jump ball rather than a foul, and the possession arrow favored the Rockets. After a discussion between the two, the Topper bench was told the trail official said he’d blown his whistle first, and his call would stand.
Rather than having a good free-throw shooter going to the line, the shocked Toppers saw Rochester take the ball out-of-bounds. Overtime seemed predestined. The last shot in regulation was a running beyond-half-court heave by sophomore Canon Bruce which rimmed out.
Overtime was anticlimatic for the Toppers and the nice-sized group of followers who made the trip to the eastern suburb of Springfield. After a pair of missed free throws by the Toppers, Anderson made his three; seven of his 12 points came in o.t., and the Rockets pulled away by making 10 of 12 free throws after going 10 of 17 in regulation. Topper o.t. points came from Christian (2 free throws), Jace Stewart (a three) and Vogel (a lay-up).
Senior Gavin Matoush earned the only double-double designation for Hillsboro, compiling 10 points and 10 rebounds. He also was first for his team in assists (3) and was 4 of 4 shooting free throws. Helton, who missed a significant part of the first half with 2 fouls, had 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists. Christian had 6 rebounds to go with his game-high 25 points as he played all 36 minutes. Vogel had a rough shooting night, but he had 9 points, 8 rebounds, an assist, three steals, and two blocked shots.
As a team the Toppers shot 43% inside the arc, 24% (5 of 21) from behind it, and 74% from the free throw line (20 of 27). Only 7 baskets were assisted. Hillsboro had 15 turnovers while Rochester committed 14.
The Rocket junior varsity also won that preliminary contest, 66-38. Deklan Riggs led Hillsboro with 11 while Dylan Lessman and Landon Summers had nine each. Mitchell Lowe finished with 6; Adrian Harston had 3.
The varsity opened play in the Kaskaskian Classic Saturday, Nov. 27; that story is elsewhere in today’s Journal-News.
Nov. 23 at Rochester
Hillsboro 17 14 18 11 7 67
Rochester 16 15 18 11 14 74
Rochester (74) - Adam Staley 15, Adam Anderson 12, Logan Wilson 11, Darrius Christian 11, Lucca Marchioro 10, Canon Bruce 9, Cam Huston 3, Ty Duncan 2, Henry Buecker 1.
Hillsboro (67) - Will Christian 25, Blaze Helton 17, Gavin Matoush 10, Drake Vogel 9, Blaine Stewart 3, Jace Stewaart 3. Totals: 21-58 20-27 67.
Three-point field goals: Hillsboro 5-21 (Christian 1, Helton 1, Vogel 1, B. Stewart 1, J. Stewart 1)
Records: Hillsboro (0-1); Rochester (1-0).
Hillsboro JV 6 12 12 8 38
Rochester JV 16 18 16 16 66
Hillsboro JV (38) - Deklan Riggs 11, Dylan Lessman 9, Landin Summers 9, Mitchell Lowe 6, Adrian Harston 3.
Record: Hillsboro JV (0-1).
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