It’s a cliché as old as sports, but Friday’s final score between the Hillcrest Hornets and the host Glendale Falcons was far from indicative of the first three-and-a-half quarters of the ballgame.
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The Falcons (5-8 overall, 0-2 Ozark Conference) held a slim 56-55 lead with 4:39 left to play, but Glendale was outscored 16-1 in the final four minutes as Hillcrest finished with a 71-57 Ozark Conference victory.
“I hate it for our guys that people will think this wasn’t close,” said Glendale coach Sean Williamson. “But I told them after the game, ‘Let this be a lesson to you. When you let up and make bad decisions it leads to lopsided games.’”
The Hornets (6-3, 1-0) and Glendale battled through 19 lead changes and 12 ties in the contest. Until the Hornets’ late rally in the fourth quarter, the largest lead by either team had been a 22-15 Hillcrest advantage at the 6:55 mark of the second quarter.
From the 5:07 mark of the second quarter to the 3:40 mark of the fourth quarter neither team led by more than three points.
“Fun for the fans, but it was a coaching nightmare,” said Hillcrest coach John Schaefer whose team had been idle throughout the Christmas break. “It was a defensive debacle, but it was a typical city game. No matter what the records are it will be a tough game. I didn’t think our composure was good. It was hurry up and get the ball to the other end of the court and score, and our shot selection wasn’t always good.”
The two teams shot well in the first half as Glendale went 11-of-19 from the floor (58%) and Hillcrest hit 14-of-25 (56%) as the Hornets went into the break ahead 36-34.
Glendale’s Cameron Maes, who led the Falcons with 17 points and seven rebounds, hit a 3-pointer to give the Falcons a 56-55 lead with 4:39 left to play, but the Hornets answered with back to back traditional three-point plays the first from Roy Hardy and the second on a driving jumper, foul and made free throw by David McIntosh for a 61-56 Hillcrest lead with 3:40 left.
“Once they got that five point lead with three minutes to go I knew we were in trouble,” said Williamson. “They have great ball handlers, great quickness and they shoot free throws well.”
Williamson said one advantage he thought his team had coming in was a solid post player in junior Remington Barbo, that could have been a mismatch inside against the smaller Hornets team. Barbo was quickly in foul trouble after a personal foul followed by a technical foul in the first 1:30 of the game. Barbo was hit with his fourth foul in the second quarter, and fouled out in the second-half finishing with six points and one rebound.
“With Barbo not playing we lost our only real opportunity to control the lane,” said Williamson. “He got the technical slapping the floor after he committed the foul early in the game, and he was mad at himself so that was two fouls right away. He got a couple of cheap reach fouls that were his fault. Remington is tough around the basket because he has some size, but on defense he is quick enough to guard. They basically start five perimeter players.”
The Hornets inside strength could be helped in a few weeks by the return of 6-foot-4 senior forward Jonah Hill, who has been sidelined by injury. Schaefer said he hoped to have Hill back on the court by the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions opener on Jan. 17 when the Hornets take on Fairfax (Va.) Paul VI, currently ranked No. 17 nationally by USA Today.
The Hornets were led by 19 points from guard Juwan Johnson.
Hillcrest – 20 16 11 24 – 71
Glendale – 15 19 13 10 – 57
Hillcrest – Tomas Whitaker 13, David McIntosh 9, Roy Hardy 13, Brady Petry 6, Austin Petry 11, Juwan Johnson 19.
Glendale – Garrett Skipworth 15, Jared Hood 3, Cameron Maes 17, Scott Harned 11, Remington Barbo 6, Chandler Collins 1, Nate Nagy 4.
Hillcrest JV 55, Glendale JV 48