Hillcrest Girls Basketball Preview

Ravens edged by Tri-County in return of varsity girls hoops

Esther Hughes leads group of 3 seniors for Hillcrest this season

By Paul D. Bowker
Posted 11/23/21

After Hillcrest Academy had fallen behind by 18 points in its season opener last Friday, Ravens senior Esther Hughes figured it was go time.

The Ravens had not scored a point in the third quarter …

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Hillcrest Girls Basketball Preview

Ravens edged by Tri-County in return of varsity girls hoops

Esther Hughes leads group of 3 seniors for Hillcrest this season

Posted

After Hillcrest Academy had fallen behind by 18 points in its season opener last Friday, Ravens senior Esther Hughes figured it was go time.

The Ravens had not scored a point in the third quarter of their game against Tri-County.

Hughes hit a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded to end the quarter. And then she scored the first five points of the final quarter along with several more baskets down the stretch, aggressively attacking Tri-County’s defense.

The Ravens lost, 37-31, but Hughes’ dominance displayed what Hillcrest’s opponents will face this season.

“She’s a great scorer,” Hillcrest coach Mitch Drey said. “She can be very unselfish. She can be a very good passer. I think the biggest thing for us to kind of unlock our potential, we’ve got girls who can school the basketball besides her. And I think for her sake, we’re going to need some of our girls to kind of help with her.”

Hughes, who won a starting job last year with Mid-Prairie since Hillcrest canceled its season due to a lack of enough players, scored 26 points in the season opener. Only two other Ravens scored.

Tri-County pulled ahead by one point, 11-10, after the opening quarter and was ahead by six at halftime.

The Trojans scored the first 10 points of the third quarter to open up an 18-point lead and would have pitched a shutout except for a long 3-pointer by Hughes as time ran out.

“We played really hard after the first two minutes of the game. We played tough and then there was a little bit of a lull in that third quarter. That’s mostly on my fault. I didn’t have them ready,” Drey said.

The Ravens were ready for the fourth quarter, especially with Hughes kicking things into high gear. Hughes hit two baskets and a free throw to whittle the Trojans’ lead to 10. The Ravens closed the gap to six points with 1:10 left, but the Trojans hit a basket to make it 37-29. Hughes hit one final basket to close the margin to six points again.

Hillcrest held Tri-County to just six points in the final quarter, showing the kind of defensive intensity Drey hopes to see throughout the season.

“Honestly, the way that we fought, offense, defense, I know we just lost to a great team,” Drey said. “They played better than we did. I think if we had two more minutes, if we turn it on two minutes sooner, we might have made it a little closer.”

Following a season in which the Ravens didn’t have enough student-athletes to field a team, five freshmen on a nine-player team not only solves the problem but helps deliver a bright future for the Ravens.

Malia Yoder, a 5-foot-6 freshman guard, earned a start in her first high school game. Volleyball freshmen Kylee Statler and Lydia Beachy join her. Hughes and Statler were frequently stationed together on the front row during Hillcrest’s 10-win volleyball season. Other freshmen are Delaney Shaw, a 5-7 forward who ran cross country in the fall, and Hailey Chalupa, a 5-6 forward.

In addition to Hughes, the senior group consists of forwards Leah Bontrager, a four-time state qualifier in cross country, and Norah Yoder, a volleyball teammate of Hughes.

Vlada Conea, whose 98 kills in volleyball ranked only behind Hughes’ 177, is the only junior on the team.

SCOUTING THE RAVENS

Head coach: Mitch Drey

2020-21 record: Season was canceled

Top returner: Senior guard Esther Hughes was No. 2 on the team in scoring, rebounding and assists as a sophomore in 2019-20. She started 17 games last year at Mid-Prairie and averaged 5.5 points per game.

Top newcomer: Guard Malia Yoder has earned a starting spot and is one of five freshmen on the squad.

Seniors: Esther Hughes,  G, 5-6; Norah Yoder, F, 5-7; Leah Bontrager, F, 5-7.

Junior: Vlada Conea, F, 5-7.

Freshmen: Malia Yoder, G, 5-6; Kylee Statler, F, 5-7; Delaney Shaw, F, 5-7; Hailey Chalupa, F, 5-6; Lydia Beachy, F, 5-6.

SCHEDULE

Nov. 19: Tri-County 37, Hillcrest 31

Nov. 23: Winfield-Mt. Union 67, Hillcrest 21

Nov. 30: At Mediapolis

Dec. 3: WAPELLO

Dec. 7: At Louisa-Muscatine

Dec. 9: COLUMBUS

Dec. 11: RIVERMONT COLLEGIATE

Dec. 17: At Pekin

Dec. 21: HIGHLAND

Jan. 4: At Lone Tree

Jan. 7: WINFIELD-MT. UNION

Jan. 11: MEDIAPOLIS

Jan. 14: At Wapello

Jan. 18: LOUISA-MUSCATINE

Jan. 21: At Columbus

Jan. 28: PEKIN

Jan. 29: At Danville

Feb. 1: At Highland

Feb. 3: LONE TREE

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