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The Tigers' silver lining
Hillsboro brings silver ball home
tigers basketball state runner up trophy
The Hillsboro Tigers boys basketball team carries the runner-up trophy from the court following the WIAA Division 5 state championship game March 21 at the Kohl Center in Madison. - photo by Lynn Thorson photo

MADISON — The speed of Young Coggs Prep guards Tiwon Jones and DeAngelo Crawford was unlike anything the Hillsboro Tigers have seen this year.

Jones and Crawford combined for nine steals and pestered Hillsboro into 20 turnovers. Offensively they continually attacked the Tigers defense with an array of impressive dribbling and got to the free throw line over and over and over again.

The lightning-quick senior duo combined to score 44 points and made 26 of 36 free throws to lead the Eagles to a 56–50 victory, snapping the Tigers’ 11-game win streak in Saturday’s WIAA Division 5 state championship game at the Kohl Center.

Hillsboro finished the season 23–6 and brought home a silver trophy in the program’s first trip to state in the 100th anniversary of the tournament. They became just the second school from the Scenic Bluffs Conference to reach the boys’ basketball tournament and the first to play for a title.

“I’m really proud of the way the kids came together this year,” said Hillsboro first-year head coach Curt Hildreth. “We had a can’t lose attitude the entire tournament and they felt they were going to win the championship right until the very end. We couldn’t be more proud of them as a coaching staff.

“This year was really special. We made some history this year. We had big expectations, but if you would have asked people in January or even early February no would have guessed this was possible. But it shows you want can happen when a team pulls together. There have been a lot of great teams here at Hillsboro that got close (state). We are happy to be the first team to break through.”

Young Coggs Prep (21–5), an inner-city charter school from Milwaukee, finished 28 of 45 from the free throw line in Saturday’s championship, setting Division 5 records for free throws made and attempted.

Hillsboro starting guards Tyler and Tommy Crandall both fouled out, and Tiger power forward Hunter Stanek was limited to just two points and one rebound in 15 minutes because of foul trouble.

“Their speed was definitely a big factor in the game,” said Hillsboro head coach Curt Hildreth. “You could see at the beginning of each half it took us awhile to adjust to their quickness and settle in.

“But as far as our defense, our kids did exactly what we asked of them. We have no complaints about how we played on that end of the court. I thoughts our kids were working hard and I don’t think we would have done anything different.”

The Eagles, who won their first state title in any sport, also battled foul trouble and lost starter Jontae Peterson to an ankle injury midway through the first quarter. Starting forward Devonte Bridges played just 20 minutes after fouling out with 6:51 left in the game, and Jones sat for five minutes of the first half with foul trouble.

Young Coggs Prep scored the first five points of the game and led 14–10 at the end of the first quarter.

Crawford scored the first five points of the second quarter on a layup and three free throws as the Eagles expanded their lead to nine at 19–10.

A layup by Jones and a free throw by Yosahri Brown gave Young Coggs its biggest lead of the first half at 25–14 with 3:19 left in the second quarter.

But Hillsboro responded with an 8–1 run to close the half to pull within four.

Stockwell scored on a layup, then converted a 3-point play two possessions later. Ethan Thorson’s 3-pointer with 58 seconds left in the half made it 26–22.

After sitting the final two minutes of the first half, Jones went right to work to open the third quarter. He scored eight straight points on six straight free throws and a pull-up jumper as Young Coggs build another double-digit lead at 34–22 just three minutes into the second half. The Tigers committed three turnovers in the run.

Hillsboro cut into the lead with a pair of free throws by Stockwell and 3-pointers by junior point guard Joey Helgerson and junior Ethan Thorson, but Crawford ended the quarter with a pull-up jumper to make it 42–33 going into the final eight minutes.

“The key to their second half run was us turning the ball over and giving them the opportunity to get in the open court,” said Hildreth. “We just weren’t getting settled into our offense. Once we got settled down we were getting the shots we wanted especially in the fourth quarter. I wish there would have been a few more minutes in that game because I think we were starting to take control, but we just ran out of time.”

Stockwell scored a layup while drawing Bridges’ fifth foul with 6:51 left. He converted the layup to pull the Tigers within six at 44–38.

The Tigers then missed four straight free throws and Stockwell hit a jumper to make it a four-point game.

After a jumper by Jones, Helgerson drilled a 3-pointer to pull Hillsboro within three at 46–43 with 4:15 left.

Jones made four straight free throws to stretch the lead to seven with 2:31 left, but Stockwell made 3 of 4 from the line and scored a layup with 1:19 left to make it 52–48.

A putback by senior Avery Rueckheim got the Tigers within three once again at 53–50 with 36 seconds left, but those were Hillsboro’s final points.

Jones and Crawford combined to make 3 of 6 from the line in the final 35 seconds, while Hillsboro committed back-to-back turnovers and missed its final two shots.

“There guards were tough out front defensively and really pressured the ball,” said Hildreth. “They tried taking away the middle, but after one ball rotation we were able to get it to Max in the middle of their zone and that led to Max having a big game. Any time they are going to give us that we are going to take it. We didn’t hit some of the outside looks we would have liked, but that’s basketball sometimes. We got shots we wanted.”

Stockwell finished with a game-high 28 points on 8 of 16 shooting, and had 12 rebounds and four assists. He went 11 for 15 from the free throw line, but was the only Tiger to attempt a free throw.

Rueckheim came off the bench to score six points and grab seven rebounds. Helgerson scored six points on 2 of 10 shooting. Thorson added six points on a pair of 3-pointers.

Stanek and Tommy Crandall (two points each) were the only other Tigers to score in the loss.

Jones finished with 24 points and six steals. Crawford added 20 points, five assists, three steals and three rebounds. Trivoris Griffin hit a pair of threes for six points, and Brown added six points and five rebounds.