After emerging victorious in the first round of the playoffs over Regina Catholic and then falling in the second round of the playoffs to Lynnville-Sully, the Ravens completed its 2022-2023 season …
After emerging victorious in the first round of the playoffs over Regina Catholic and then falling in the second round of the playoffs to Lynnville-Sully, the Ravens completed its 2022-2023 season with a 12-11 record and a 10-6 record in conference play.
As the dust settles on another superb season of high school basketball it becomes paramount for the best basketball players to be recognized for their play. Not left out of having players being selected as the best players in the conference, Hillcrest ended up with five Ravens who received all-conference honors in the Southeast Iowa Super Conference North Division.
It was a senior year to remember for Hillcrest’s Grant Bender. Adding another accolade to his impressive high school basketball career, Bender was a unanimous first team all-conference selection in the SEISC North.
"Grant's growth from his freshman and sophomore seasons through his senior year has been both tremendous and awesome," Hillcrest coach Dwight Gingerich said. "It is gratifying and a beautiful thing to see someone pour themselves fully into what they are passionate about. It has been a joy to work with Grant and to see the joy he brings to the game and to our team. Grant has improved steadily each season, including this one. His free throw shooting saw a remarkable turnaround during this season. His assist numbers went up, his steal numbers went up, his defense was much more consistent and strong. I cannot say enough about his growth."
Bender was a scoring machine for the Ravens this year. At the towering height of 6’3” Bender has a great knack of powering through defenses in order to score tough close-range shots.
Leading the team with 423 points on the season, Bender was always a player opposing defenses had to watch out for. Overall, he accumulated over 900 points playing for the Ravens in his high school career. His 423 points were also third most in the SEISC.
"Grant did what he did despite dealing with asthma, sickness at several points during the season, an ankle sprain, not to mention staples (not stitches) in his head," Gingerich said. "Grant was voted by his teammates the Best Offensive player. He was also voted the team’s Most Valuable Player. Grant was a unanimous First Team All Conference pick. Grant was very recently named to the All Substate 6 Team. Grant received Academic All Conference honors and was named to the Academic All State team, an absolutely terrific honor."
Bender scored 41, his season high, against Louisa-Muscatine in a conference game on December 9.
His next two highest scoring games came in the same week of February. Scoring 33 against Columbus on February 7, Bender followed up that stellar performance by dropping 34 points in a first round playoff victory against Regina Catholic on February 13.
One of three players who started all 23 games for the Ravens, Bender used his tall frame to his advantage and ended the season as the team leader in rebounds with 137, ninth most in the SEISC.
On defense Bender had the most blocks for the Ravens, with 21. He was also quite proficient at stealing the ball. Swiping the ball away from his opponent 57 times, tied for the team lead and fourth most in the SEISC, Bender had the ability to make a difference on both sides of the court.
Making a splash as a sophomore Hillcrest’s Seth Ours was also selected first-team all conference in the SEISC North.
The second highest scorer for the Ravens this season with 270 points, Ours made an impact for Hillcrest on offense as a three-point shooter. Deadly from distance he connected a team high 55 three-pointers, seventh most in Hillcrest school history and second most in the SEISC.
"What a sophomore season for Seth! There is no quit in Seth, he does not back away from a challenge, he continues to grow in his belief in himself and in his understanding of the game and what he can do to help our team in so many different ways," Gingerich said. "Seth climbed into the top 10 list in 3s made in a season with 55, good for 7th on the list, and did it at a 39 percent clip."
Ours, not afraid of the challenge or pressure of playing as a sophomore, was one of three players who started all 23 games for Hillcrest. A key player for Hillcrest and an essential part of its success, he ended the season with 44 assists, 63 rebounds, and 37 steals.
"Seth was voted Most Improved Player along with two teammates. It’s a great acknowledgement of the growth Seth has made, and the recognition that he did not rest on his laurels after a solid freshman season, but only got better. I am confident he will continue to grow, as he becomes really the team leader going into his junior year," Gingerich said.
Hillcrest senior Luke Schrock was selected second team all-conference in the SEISC North. Proficient in scoring, assisting, and stealing the ball Schrock put together a senior season more than worthy of a second team selection.
"Luke brought tremendous energy, fearlessness, aggressiveness, belief, skills, and toughness and got better to the end," Gingerich said. "And it was fun to see him really kick it into gear against Wapello and against Lynnville Sully and many games in between. He led us with 19 points including four threes in the last game. Luke is a fierce competitor, and plays the right way."
Schrock, one of three players who started all 23 games for the Ravens, managed to score 259 points, third most on the team. His season high in points, 27, came against Wapello on January 31.
Tied for the team lead with 57 steals, Schrock was the leader in assists for the Ravens on the year with 70, ninth most in the SEISC.
"Luke led us in assists and tied for the lead in steals and was our second leading rebounder as maybe the shortest man on the floor," Gingerich said. "Luke was voted by his teammates the Hustle Award recipient and also the team’s Best Defensive Player! Luke was named to the All Conference Second Team, and I think we all saw him perform like a First Teamer down the stretch. Luke also earned Academic All Conference honors. "
Hillcrest senior Jace Rempel was an honorable mention all-conference. Compiling 71 points on the season he also finishes the year with 42 rebounds, 55 assists, and 22 steals.
"Jace has been a glue player throughout. He has done what’s been needed wherever he’s been along the way. Jace did things behind the scenes that do not make the stat sheets. Getting the ball to the post at the right time from the correct angle," Gingerich said. "Talking on defense, playing with awareness, taking care of the ball, grabbing a big steal, securing a timely and needed rebound. He was undersized and he came away with some big rebounds in big moments."
"Jace handed out a team second best 55 assists and had the highest assist to turnover ratio on the team at just over 2 to 1. Jace was an iron man for us as he, along with Seth, logged the most quarters for us through the season. His efforts did not go unnoticed, as he was overwhelmingly voted the recipient of the Teammate Award by his peers. Jace also was named Honorable Mention All Conference and earned Academic All Conference honors. For his efforts on and off the court, Jace also receives the Coaches Appreciation Award," Gingerich said.
Also an honorable mention all-conference was Hillcrest senior Josiah Beachy. Beachy scored 59 points, rebounded the ball 62 times, dished out 37 assists, and was able to steal the ball 27 times.
"Josiah plays very hard and he played very hard to the bitter end in our last game vs Lynnville Sully. Josiah brought toughness, a blue collar demeanor, a willingness to step in and draw the charge, an uncanny ability to pass, and an awareness and IQ to the game that really helped our team," Gingerich said. "He provided leadership during stressful moments as he was able to keep a clear head. Josiah embraced his role well. He came up with some big deflections and steals. Josiah earned Honorable Mention All Conference honors, and received Academic All Conference honors.
With all four of the Hillcrest seniors earning all-conference accolades it shows just how much talent the Ravens will be losing after they graduate. There will be an inevitable void the team will have to fill.
However, having a player like Ours, an already great player who will only get better, having other players more than willing to step up into more prominent roles, and having a fresh batch of freshman newcomers join the team, Hillcrest doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon.