Third time is a charm as Hurons top Hillman in district opener

A celebration of exhausted Hurons broke out after a 40-38 win over Hillman in the district opening round. (Photo by Richard Lamb)
A celebration of exhausted Hurons broke out after a 40-38 win over Hillman in the district opening round. (Photo by Richard Lamb)

by Richard Lamb–Advance Editor

The old saying “it’s hard to beat a team three times in a season,” came into play Wednesday night in Hillman. The Tigers, riding a 19-game wining streak fell at the hands of the Hurons, who lost badly to Hillman more than a week ago. Hillman had narrowly defeated the Hurons earlier in the season, but had their hands full in the district opener in Onaway Wednesday (Feb. 28).

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Kayla Rabeau hits a jumper over Hillman’s Kristen Kenyon. (Photo by Richard Lamb)

The game looked to come down to who would have the last possession as the lead changed hands several times in the second half. That winning possession turned out belong to the Hurons. Taylor Fleming, who led all scorers with 20 points, snared a rebound and hit a put-backer to tie the score at 36-36 with three three minutes left in the game. She hit a shot on the next possession as the Hurons went up 38-36.

Rogers City players and coaches celebrate a hard-fought 40-38 win over a very good Hillman team in the district tournament in Onaway. (Photo by Richard Lamb)
Rogers City players and coaches celebrate a hard-fought 40-38 win over a very good Hillman team in the district tournament in Onaway. (Photo by Richard Lamb)

Hillman scored to tie it up at 38-38 and Rogers City coach Duane Pitts called timeout.

That set up the winning possession for Rogers City. The ball went inside to Fleming, who drove the lane, just missing the shot. The rebound squirted out to point guard Jayna Hance at the left elbow. She quickly spotted Kayla Rabeau who was barely open underneath the basket and drilled a sharp pass to her teammate. Rabeau, who had eight points in the game, hit the short banker with 37 seconds left on the clock to put the Hurons up 40-38 in what would be the winning basket. The Hurons stopped the Tigers on the other end and set off a celebration with the win.

The game went back and forth right from the start. Taylor Fleming scored the first 10 points of the game for the Hurons before Hance went coast-to-coast with a rebound to tie the game at 12-12 early in the second quarter. Hillman led 21-17 at halftime, as a few inside shots would not fall for Rogers City.

Trailing 23-19, after giving up an offensive rebound and bucket to Hillman, the Hurons roared back in the third quarter.

Taylor Fleming took a pass from Hannah Fleming and scored two for the Hurons in the 40-38 win over Hillman. (Photo by Richard Lamb)
Taylor Fleming took a pass from Hannah Fleming and scored two for the Hurons in the 40-38 win over Hillman. (Photo by Richard Lamb)

Two free throws by Rabeau, then a lay-up off a pass from Taylor Fleming tied the game again at 23-23 with 3:57 to go in the third quarter. Hannah Fleming then drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key and followed that with a runner one minute later to give the Hurons a 28-23 lead over the Tigers. Hillman scored the last five points of the third quarter and trailed 28-27 heading into the final frame.

The Tigers showed why they were 19-1 by responding with a 6-2 run to take a 33-30 lead 90 seconds into the fourth quarter. Coach Pitts called timeout and his team answered the call. Hannah Fleming set up Taylor Fleming with a beautiful pass and Hance drained two free throws to make it a one-point game at 35-34 Hillman. That set up the final three minutes of action.

“We are happy with the defense we played tonight and how we got after it. It was a great team win tonight,” said Huron coach Duane Pitts.

Pitts said the team came into the game with confidence, even after a stinging defeat in Hillman.

“We actually came into the game believing we could do it. We had them on the ropes once last year and we had them again this year and they knew that if we came out and played the way that we could we could get the job done. The defense and boxing out was a big key for us. I am really proud of the girls for how they played,” Pitts said.

Posen topped Onaway 56-50 in a game of momentum swings in the first game of the district Wednesday. The Vikings started fast going up 15-2 after Cami LaTulip snared a rebound and hit a banker. Baskets by Brooke Ciarkowski and LaTulip, off another offensive rebound opportunity, made the Viking lead 23-9. Onaway’s Kennedy Crawford nailed a jumper at the buzzer to make the score 23-11, Posen and halftime.

But Onaway did not give up, mounting a great rally in the second quarter. The Cards scored seven straight points over 2:20 to cut the Posen lead to 28-20 midway through the second quarter. A 3-pointer by Lauren Welklin with 35 seconds left in the third quarter made it a game at 32-27 heading into halftime.

Onaway had a chance to tie the game or take the lead after Crawford hit a layup, drew a foul and hit the free throw to make the score 34-32. After a Posen timeout, the Vikings went on a 10-2 run. There was still fight in the Cardinals after a Sammy Pasella 3-pointer and two free throws by Carmen Sellke cut the lead to 44-40 at the end of the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter the Cardinals got within five points of Posen at 53-48 after a free throw by Zebany Box with 1:58 left in the game, but could draw no closer.

Posen defeated Onaway earlier in the season and coach Karl Momrik was glad to advance to the district championship game.1018-contested

“This is a tough place to play and Onaway is a pretty good team. We jumped off to an early lead an thank goodness we never game up the lead, because that would have been rough on us. We scored on some good out of bounds plays and we played some good defense and came up with a win,” Momrik said.

For Onaway, falling behind by so much hurt their chances of knocking off Posen.

“I think we used a lot of gas in that second quarter to get back in this thing. Seems like we lost our wheels there at the end. Just couldn’t come up with that. We failed to execute tonight,” said Onaway coach John George. “They killed us on the boards and we couldn’t make the shots when we needed to.”

“It just was not our night. Sometimes the basketball gods are not looking upon us. It is just that simple. Sometimes there is a lid on that thing and we can’t get them to fall. Its unfortunate that this happens on a home game. We had everything to our advantage and we didn’t execute. Its that simple.”

Onaway graduates seven seniors in Welklin, Pasella, Sellke along with Kayla Metty, Christina Hilliker, Daria Domke and Desi Stiles.

Posen's Brooke Ciarkowski uses a screen from Cami LaTulip to get around Onaway's Kennedy Crawford and Calley Selke. (Photo by Richard Lamb)
Posen’s Brooke Ciarkowski uses a screen from Cami LaTulip to get around Onaway’s Kennedy Crawford and Calley Selke. (Photo by Richard Lamb)

Posen now faces Rogers City in Friday’s district championship game. Gametime is 6 p.m. in Onaway.

The winner of the Onaway district plays Tuesday in Grayling (not Traverse City as previously reported) Tuesday at 6 p.m. against either Bellaire (18-3), a 46-35 winner over Central Lake, or Ellsworth (9-13), a 66-30 winner over Alba in their district games this week.