That the Hillsboro varsity boys could win in Roxana this season was questionable, given the Shells return an athletic, experienced, senior-laden bunch, so that made the Toppers’ 23 point margin of victory an eye-opener for both programs when they met Friday evening, Feb. 19.
Two Shells, Parris White and Gavin Huffman, were impressive contributors as freshmen; White was 5’11” then, but he was one of the better rebounders in the conference. Huffman has been a three-point marksman since he entered the doors of Roxana High, even as a slightly built freshman. In addition, 8 of the 12 Shells on the varsity roster are seniors, including all starters. White is only 6’1”, but he has hops; Huffman is now a well-built 6’3” guard. Also in an off-hand remark as one of the officials congratulated Topper Coach Joe Vanzo on his squad’s 4-0 start, he remarked, “You’ll commit more than two fouls in this game,” a reference to the one-foul-per-half defensive performance the Toppers enjoyed against Staunton.
That was the only prediction to come true once the game began (both teams finished with 12 fouls). Hillsboro shot 52% from the field, and 62% from the free throw line (three of the four charity tosses they missed came in the fourth quarter when only the final score was in doubt). They moved the ball quickly, made good shot selections, defended well, with Gavin Matoush scoring well inside while Drake Vogel, Will Christian, and Jace Tuetken combining for 12 points on threes in the first quarter, the Toppers held a 22-10 first quarter advantage even though Tuetken picked up two fouls within 5 seconds with a couple first quarter minutes left.
When he had to sit because of the fouls (one at each end of the court), Hillsboro was ahead 14-6. Vogel and Christian each made treys soon after, with Christian’s corner shot just beating the buzzer.
The Shells had an early time out and the mask time out to plan a momentum switch, but the treys they fired in response clanged off the rims, and the Toppers rebounded well. A Tuetken breakaway put his team up 30-16 with 2:35 left in the half, and frustration for the Shells seemed to mount. They had lost before - to Greenville by 1 and to two other Metro-Area teams, but they hadn’t trailed on their floor by 14 at halftime.
Matoush had 13 points at halftime, 21 for the game, but again it became a team victory. Vogel had 16, Christian 12, Tuetken 11, and Blaze Helton 9, while Bryce Connor and Ian Malloy seemed to fit seamlessly into the action when called upon. Vogel had nine rebounds, three steals, three blocked shots, two assists, and no turnovers; Tuetken’s four assists led a balanced team effort in that category.
It was 35-19 with four minutes left in the third quarter before Huffman scored his first points (a three), and the Toppers kept pulling away. Braeden Wells with 14 led Roxana, while Hoffman and White each reached 10, but the home team had no other consistent scorers on this night.
Hillsboro’s junior varsity evened their record at 2-2 by relying on free throws in the fourth quarter (and Malloy throughout the second half when he scored 17 of his 19 points). Connor benefitted from Roxana’s foul-to-get-the-ball-back fourth quarter strategy; after missing his first two chances, Connor made ten consecutive freebies while amassing a game-high 23 points.
February 19 at Roxana
Hillsboro 22 11 19 17 69
Roxana 10 9 14 13 46
Hillsboro (69) - Gavin Matoush 21, Drake Vogel 16, Will Christian 12, Jace Tuetken 11, Blaze Helton 9. Totals: 27-52 9-13 69.
Roxana (46) - Braeden Wells 14, Gavin Huffman 10, Parris White 10, Drew Beckman 5, Cade Slayden 3, Austin Martin 2, Ashton Noble 2.
Three-point field goals: Hillsboro 6 (Vogel 3, Christian 2, Tuetken 1); Roxana 4 (Huffman 3, Wells 1).
Record: Hillsboro (5-0, 1-0).
Hillsboro JV 13 15 16 19 63
Roxana JV 12 13 13 13 51
Hillsboro JV (63) - Bryce Connor 23, Ian Malloy 19, Mitchell Lowe 7, Deklan Riggs 5, Landon Summers 3, Adison Pollard 2, Dillon Devlin 2, Adrian Harston 2.
Roxana JV (51) - Noble 13, Smay 11, Wells 11, Ryan 10, Tolbert 3, Briggs 3.
Three-point field goals: Hillsboro 4 (Connor 2, Summers 1, Riggs 1); Roxana 4 (Ryan 2, Briggs 1, Smay 1).
Record: Hillsboro (2-2).