Toppers Survive Late Rally By North Mac

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Coaches sometimes experience the thrill of building a big lead and then the agony of watching that lead melt away in the space of 16 minutes of playing time in the same game. Hillsboro’s Kyle McBrain celebrated, then suffered, and then celebrated again as his charges downed the visiting North Mac (short for Macoupin) Panthers Tuesday, Jan. 11, as the Toppers held on to win 53-50.

The score was 27-25, North Mac, after junior Lewis Reed opened third quarter scoring with an offensive rebound late in the first minute (Lewis, who totalled eight points in the game, wouldn’t score again). Will Christian answered with a three-pointer from the left wing to start a 19-5 Hillsboro run, though, and an easy Hillsboro win seemed assured.

During that stretch, Drake Vogel and Blaine Stewart each contributed a three, the Panthers couldn’t make baskets, and the Toppers ran effectively, with Gavin Matoush and/or Blaze Helton grabbing rebounds and hitting outlets to key the break. Only 6’4’’ junior Nick Downs added points (five) in the quarter for the visitors. Downs would finish with 18 for the game; Vogel was high-point man with 19.

A Downs’ short in-the-lane jumper after a Vogel 3  to cut the lead for the Toppers 33-32, but the race down the floor began when Downs’ missed the attached free throw. Layups by Blaine Stewart and Matoush forced a visitor time-out with 3:27 to play in the quarter, but that didn’t break the momentum as a Vogel steal and lay-up, a Stewart three, and a Matoush bucket built the lead to 42-32–and another North Mac time-out.

Vogel stretched the lead to 12 as the quarter ended; that buzzer seemed to end Topper momentum. The lead was still 46-34 when 5’7’’ sophomore Dane Vance, the Panthers’ point guard, made a three; then the question became whether the lead or the clock would disappear first. Downs (4) and 6’3’’ Austin Dohlman began grabbing offensive rebounds, ending the fast break opportunities.

The advantage was 51-50 after sophomore Alexander Jackson scored in the lane, but only 2.7 seconds remained. North Mac had to foul twice to put Hillsboro on the line; Vogel was the target for those fouls because he had the balll in his hands, and he made both ends of his one-and-one chance with only 0.2 seconds left to finalize the score.

The teams had met twice since Girard and Virden consolidated school districts, and North Mac had won both. Hillsboro had been 3-2 against Virden, 2-2 against Girard, so the series now is even at 6-6 if the records are extended.

One key to the Toppers’ early success Tuesday night was tough defense; another was the fast break attack in the third quarter that resulted in a game shooting percentage totals inside the arc of 15 shots made of 29 taken (52%). Not many fouls were called in the game, which helped the flow, but the Toppers also made eight of nine free throws taken (89%). The Panthers were almost as good, connecting on seven of eight free throws (78%). Vogel (7), Matoush (7) and B. Stewart (6) had the majority of the Toppers’ rebounds; Helton had a team-high four assists, and Vogel had the only three blocked shots. 

A busy rest of the week faces the Toppers, weather permitting; Friday, Jan. 14, the 10-7 varsity and the 3-5 junior varsity (who won 43-38 over North Mac behind Nathan Schaake’s 15 and Deklan Riggs’ 17 points) travel to Waverly to play South County in a game originally scheduled for last Friday. South County won the only game the two have played (53-51 in 2016-17).

Saturday the Toppers face Ramsey in the final game (7 p.m. tip) of the first round of the Rick McGraw Memorial Invitational. Vogel should reach the 1,000 point mark for his career during that tournament. 

January 11 at Hillsboro

North Mac 10 15 7 18 50

Hillsboro 12 13 19 9 53

North Mac (50) - Mick Downs 18, Austin Dohlman 11, Reed Lewis 8, Jackson Alexander 8, Dane Vance 5.

Hillsboro (53) - Drake Vogel 19, Gavin Matoush 14, Will Christian 9, Blaine Stewart 7, Blaze Helton 4. Totals: 20-39 8-9 53.

Three-point field goals: North Mac Downs 2, Vance 1); Hillsboro 5 (Vogel 3, B. Stewart 1, Christian 1).

Records: North Mac (6-8), Hillsboro (10-7).

North Mac JV 13 16 4 15 38

Hillsboro JV 11 10 11 11 43

Hillsboro JV (43) - Deklan Riggs 17, Nathan Schaake 15, Jace Stewart 6, Brayden Fowler 3, Landon Summers 2.

Three-point field goals: Hillsboro 3 (Riggs 3).

Record: Hillsboro (3-5).

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