Hillcrest began their season with a scrimmage matchup against Regina Catholic at home. Almost three months later, the Ravens find themselves in a familiar matchup, a playoff showdown between Regina …
Hillcrest began their season with a scrimmage matchup against Regina Catholic at home. Almost three months later, the Ravens find themselves in a familiar matchup, a playoff showdown between Regina Catholic and Hillcrest Academy in the Hillcrest Union Gymnasium.
Winner moves on. Loser’s season ends.
The Hillcrest Ravens played in a tough matchup against the Regals and ultimately won in a close 60-55 bout to move on to the second round of playoff contention.
Senior, Grant Bender, placed the team on his back in this one, following up a 33-point effort in Columbus Junction with a 34-point game at home to secure the win for the Ravens.
“I felt really good, especially in the first half, it just flowed,” Bender said. “We were in it to win it.”
Bender continued scoring even with the endless pressure in his face and constant defensive presence at his back. When the Regina defense placed Bender as their main focus, teammates were able to step up to the challenge like sophomore, Bryce Bailey, who banked a big three after the Regina defense left him to focus on Bender’s dominant presence.
“[Bender] has found that blend of being aggressive yet patient, an aggressive patience. He obviously made a ton of huge plays tonight through the game,” Raven head coach, Dwight Gingerich, said. “We tried to sit him to rest him, you could tell he was getting tired. 30 seconds later, he said he’s ready to go so clearly, he’s highly passionate and has tremendous desire.”
The first quarter started out very close, ending in a 18-17 Hillcrest lead. What helped Hillcrest in this contest was their reliable scoring, putting up 14 in every quarter after the first. Regina fell behind in the middle quarters, only putting up 16 to Hillcrest’s 28.
Regina pushed for the big comeback in the fourth. They almost had it.
Regina outscored Hillcrest 22-14 in the fourth, drawing the game to within five points. With the Regals continuing to dial up the pressure late in the fourth, sophomore, Seth Ours, controlled a rebound and made his way down the court, drawing a penalty to help seal the game for the Ravens.
“I felt like our guys kept their composure late and things got a little bit crazy but that was the key, keeping our heads,” Gingerich said. “[Hillcrest] knocked down a few free throws late, always helps to seal the deal.”
When the final siren ceased, the home crowd rose to their feet in appreciation for the Ravens, who held on to keep their championship dreams alive.
After the big playoff win, the Ravens will be looking to continue this momentum into the next round after two dominant Grant Bender performances. They travel to Lynnville-Sully High to take on the 20-2 Hawks in Lynnville on Thursday, Feb. 16.
“[They have to] put your best foot forward in every aspect of the game. This group plays hard, they’re willing to play hard, they’re willing to be coached and the improvement has been there,” Gingerich said. “Our execution has been much better the last couple of weeks, and it just feels like we’re playing our best basketball of the season right now.”
Last year, Hillcrest had a 15-6 record and won in the first round of the playoffs only to fall to Winfield-Mt Union in a tightly contested second round matchup. They hope to not fall into the same path this year.
This year, the makeup of the Ravens is very similar to last. They finished third place in the conference for the third year in a row. The top three scorers of the last two years have been Bender, Ours and Schrock. Ours and Schrock both had more points this season with Ours scoring 79 more and Schrock with 30 more.
They hope to transition this into their next playoff matchup.
Regina 55, Hillcrest 60
17 10 6 22 -- 55
18 14 14 14 -- 60
HILLCREST SCORING: Grant Bender 34, Seth Ours 10, Luke Schrock 8
HILLCREST REBOUNDS: Bender 9, Ours 5, Bryce Bailey 4
Hillcrest needed a rebound after their penultimate regular season matchup loss to Mediapolis. What they got in Columbus Junction was more than a rebound, however. It was a statement. Sweeping the Columbus Wildcats. This statement win helped propel the playoff win against Regina.
Hillcrest senior, Grant Bender, came to play in this regular season finale, scoring 33 points in two and a half quarters before getting to rest for the final quarter and a half.
Watching Bender play was like watching a video game character. Bender made his way to the net on multiple occasions, leaping through the air and banking layups above the Columbus defense. Bender simply dominated the flow of the game and finished the regular season leading in scoring and rebounding for the Ravens.
“[Bender played] a solid game, played out of control, he’s becoming more sound by the week. It’s been really fun to see his growth through the season, through his career,” Hillcrest head coach Dwight Gingerich said about Bender’s performance.
The Ravens won this contest 78-27. It gave them a plus .500 record for the season at 11-10. They’ve never lost a game to the Wildcats, winning all 29 matchups going back to 2007.
The game wasn’t always a blow-out. The Wildcats played a tough start, outscoring the Ravens 8-7 in the first few minutes. They briefly held this lead before the Ravens scored 19 unanswered to end the first quarter. Bender had his biggest quarter here, putting up 19 alone.
Hillcrest 78, Columbus 27
26 21 18 13 -- 55
8 8 3 8 -- 27
HILLCREST SCORING: Grant Bender 33, Luke Schrock 11, Rowan Miller 10
HILLCREST REBOUNDS: Josiah Beachy 5, Bryce Bailey 4, Bender 4
COLUMBUS SCORING: Grant Watson 8, Oscar Alcala 7, Ryan Coil 5
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here