Toppers Pick Up SCC Win Over Birds

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Any trip from Hillsboro to Piasa Southwestern, a school serving a wide area of southwestern Macoupin County, seems long; one passes through five towns and over innumerable railroad tracks on Rt. 16. If the trip is to participate in or watch an athletic contest, though, a win makes the return trip seem remarkably shorter. After the Topper boys’ varsity team opened the conference season with a decisive twenty-point win over the Birds Friday evening, Dec. 17, the trip back to Hillsboro was comfortably quick.

Behind Gavin Matoush’s eight point first quarter, Hillsboro jumped to a 17-9 lead. The 6’2’’ senior benefitted from passes by Will Christian; the last Topper points in the first quarter was a three pointer from Blaine Stewart, who had the only Topper threes in the game.

Hillsboro rotated players off the bench early and often in the second quarter while their man defense shackled the host team; with 5:04 to play in the quarter, the Birds hadn’t scored. Blaze Helton banged away inside for seven points; Bryce Connor added an offensive rebound, Christian was perfect on four attempts from the free throw line, and the game seemed decided at the halftime buzzer as Hillsboro held a 32-12 lead.

Perhaps because of the big Topper advantage, play became rugged and ragged in the second half. The Birds tried a 1-2-2 zone press, changing players on a five-man rotation basis. When Hillsboro subbed to give game experience to younger players, Piasa became more aggressive with their pressure; both teams were not avoiding contact, so the starters were returned to the fray. They seemed eager to rejoin the battle.

First the Topper head coach was hit with a technical foul early in the fourth quarter; then the officials assessed a technical to a Bird player as the game grew chaotic. Senior Carson Cooley had two baskets plus two free throws for six of his team-high 10 points, but the Toppers lead was never threatened, ranging from 20 to 25 points. However, they didn’t shoot well enough to gain a 30 point lead and quick-clock status.

The Toppers were called for 11 second half fouls; the Birds drew 14. Eight Birds scored; seven Toppers had points behind their names. Only Cooley reached double figures for the hosts, but Matoush (17), Helton (13), Christian (10) and Blaine Stewart (10) reached that status for Hillsboro.

Hillsboro shot 50% (22 makes, 44 shots taken) inside the arc, partially because their running game produced layups. They struggled behind the arc, though (2 of 13), so the combined field goal percentage was 42%. They were also only 50% from the free throw line–a factor in not ever gaining a 30 point lead. Matoush had 9 rebounds, while Drake Vogel and Helton had sevem; Vogel had two early fouls, so he missed playing time as early as the first quarter. He did have a team-high six steals. The Toppers as a team had 33 rebounds, 10 assists, and 10 steals. Piasa turned the ball over 14 times, Hillsboro 12.

The junior varsity from Piasa stifled Hillsboro’s  sophomore-dominated JV to win 54-27. They were quicker: Collin Robinson, who was the place-kicker for their football team, led all scorers with 18 while center David Watkins added 10; eight Birds scored. Mitchell Lowe had 10 to lead the six Toppers who scored as Southwestern won handily.

December 17 at Piasa

Hillsboro 17 15 20 9 61

Southwestern 9 3 14 15 41

Hillsboro (61) - Gavin Matoush 17, Blaze Helton 13, Will Christian 10, Blaine Stewart 8, Drake Vogel 6, Jace Stewart 3, Bryce Connor 2. Totals: 24-57 11-22 61.

Southwestern (41) - Carson Cooley 10, Lane Gage 8, David Watkins 6, Hank Bouillon 5, Rocky Darr 4, Logan Keith 3, Collin Robinson 3, Ian Brantley 2. Totals: 15-41 10-17 41.

Three-point field goals: Hillsboro 2 (B. Stewart 2); Southwestern 1 (Robinson 1).

Records: Hillsboro (5-3, 1-0); Southwestern (4-5, 0-1).

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