ELROY — Hunter Stanek is a well put together young man.
At a solid 230 pounds, the Hillsboro junior is stronger than most opponents he spends time battling in the paint. But standing just 6-foot-3 in shoes on his best day, the Tigers’ starting power forward is also shorter than most players he goes head-to-head with.
But as first-year Hillsboro head coach Curt Hildreth explains, Stanek has come a long way in a short time this season for the 17–5 Tigers.
Last Thursday, Stanek scored a team-high 15 points on just seven shots and grabbed 10 rebounds for his third double–double of the season to lead Hillsboro to a 52–34 victory over Royall in the regular season finale for both teams.
“Overall, I think he was the key to the game,” said Hildreth. “Early on this season I think Hunter was adjusting to the length of some of the defenders he had to go up against. Scoring wise he has been doing a much better job of making post moves to score and he’s been really effective. He is so strong that sometimes he just drops his shoulder and bowls people over. We’ve been really working with him on post moves to make him a better all-around player.”
Fellow junior Max Stockwell scored nine of his 15 points in the first quarter to propel Hillsboro to a 17–8 lead, but the Tigers’ leading scoring lost his shooting touch after the first quarter.
Stockwell finished just 4 of 18 from the field, but Stanek and company picked up the slack.
Stanek scored eight points in the second half as the Tigers pulled away for the 18-point win.
Fellow junior Joey Helgerson scored seven of his 12 points in the third quarter as Hillsboro took 43–26 lead into the fourth quarter.
Hillsboro finished the regular season 17–5 overall and second in the Scenic Bluffs at 12–2 behind Bangor (20–2, 14–0).
“Anytime you win 17 games in the regular season you are pleased with your team,” said Hildreth. “We are excited to get into the postseason, especially after losing to Bangor the second time and not getting a shot to share the conference title, and see what we can do.”
Hildreth’s Tigers opened the WIAA Division 5 playoffs Tuesday at home against eight-seeded Weston (5–17).
With a win top-seeded Hillsboro will host either No. 4 Cashton (9–13) or No. 5 Royall (6–16)