It was a triple feel good night for Topper fans in the Hillsboro gym Friday evening, Jan. 10, when the boys from the 'Boro entertained the Gillespie Miners. First, the younger Toppers won a closely contested junior varsity game 55-54. Then a contingent of past Hillsboro players and coaches plus the current crop gathered on the floor to receive an award from the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association in honor of reaching 1,500 program wins. Then, in another dramatic contest, the varsity gained yet another win 52-50.
The varsity contest began with a Drake Vogel burst (the sophomore point guard scored the first eight points of the contest), then settled into a Gillespie comeback as junior reserve guard Brock Frederick's five second quarter points helped them close to an 18-18 tie with two minutes left in the half. Ian Malloy came off the bench in the second quarter to establish a physical presence underneath defensively; his two field goals in that period helped the Toppers lead 22-20 at halftime.
The second half began with hot shooting in terms of percentage by both teams -- and a see-saw scoreboard resulted. Gillespie's biggest lead was three and they had the ball, but then turned it over. Nic Ondrey found his stroke in the third quarter and maintained it through the fourth.
Gillespie's Frankie Barrett, though, had nine of his 14 points in the third to balance Ondrey's efforts. The last quarter had its bizarre moments, fitting for a close game. For example, Gavin Matoush made the front end of a one-and-one chance, but the point (and with it, both his chance for another and possession) was taken away because a Topper jumped into the lane prematurely. Near the end, Gillespie's 6'4" Blake Zenner scored his first points to forge a 46-46 tie, but he missed the attached free throw that would have provided a lead.
Perhaps the most bizarre play of the season helped Jace Tuetken provide the lead. Hillsboro fans' disappointment when an errant Gillespie pass bounced off an official instead of flying out-of-bounds for a turnover became joy when the ball was alertly picked up by Tuetken, who drove for the go-ahead basket as he was fouled. The free throw made it 49-46 with 20 seconds to play.
Anthony Kravanya, whose 18 points tied him with Ondrey for game high points honors, hit a ten foot jump shot with 14.7 seconds left -- the Miners were within one. When Hillsboro successfully inbounded the ball, Gillespie fouled Matoush. It was the Miners' tenth foul of the half.
The Toppers sophomore made both free throws. At the other end the Miners missed the needed three, but Zenner made the rebound shot in the lane -- 51-50. Hillsboro inbounded, so the Miners fouled Ondrey with 0.4 seconds to play. When Ondrey made the second of his free throws, the Miners had to inbound the ball far away from their target with no chance for a legitimate shot.
The junior varsity game was even closer. Malloy (22) and Blaze Helton (10) dominated inside, but Will Christian made the second of two free throws with 0.9 seconds on the clock to provide the margin of victory. Hillsboro made only 8 of 23 free throws - and 21 of the misses were in the last quarter.
Besides Malloy and Helton, Hillsboro had points from Bryce Connor (8), Christian (6), Ethan Lentz (4), Brady Meier (3 - he made his first shot after a long injury layoff) and Dillon Smail (2 - he is restricted to first half play only because of varsity duties).
Hillsboro next hosts a strong North Mac team (the team represents the Girard and Virden areas since consolidation) tomorrow, Tuesday, Jan. 14. The Litchfield Tournament starts this Saturday, Jan. 18, when the Toppers play Taylorville at 2:30 Simmons gym.
January 10 at Hillsboro
Gillespie 7 13 19 11 50
Hillsboro 10 12 14 16 52
Gillespie (50) - Anthony Kravanya 18, Frankie Barrett 14, Billy Gill 5, Brock Fredericks 5, Blake Zenner 4, Alex Ottersburg 4.
Hillsboro (52) - Nic Ondrey 18, Drake Vogel 12, Jace Tuetken 9, Gavin Matoush 9, Ian Malloy 4. Totals: 20-55 9-15 52.
Three-point field goals: Hillsboro 3 (Vogel 2, Ondrey 1); Gillespie 4 (Fredericks 1, Barrett 1, Gill 1, Kravanya 1).
Records: Hillsboro (5-11, 1-2); Gillespie (5-12, 1-2).