NEW LISBON — The Hillsboro basketball team is flying high early this season.
The Tigers are off to a 3–0 start under first-year head coach Curt Hildreth and are ranked third in the latest Division 5 AP poll after dominating wins over New Lisbon last Thursday and Richland Center on Saturday.
Last Thursday the Tigers raced out to a 17–0 lead against the host Rockets and cruised to an easy 63–24 victory to open Scenic Bluffs play.
“We pressed early, forced some turnovers and were able to capitalize on them with easy baskets,” said Hildreth. “We were maybe more gifted than they were, but their kids competed hard and did what they could. We just got off to such a good start.”
Hillsboro (3–0, 1–0 SBC) led 17–0 before Jarrett Smitth knocked down a pair of free throws with three minutes left in the opening quarter to break up the shutout. Smith scored all five New Lisbon points in the first quarter and eight of the Rockets’ 10 first-half points. He finished with a team-high 16 points.
Junior Max Stockwell led the Tigers scoring 13 of his game-high 20 points in the first half as Hillsboro’s lead ballooned to 33–10 at the break. He also had two rebounds and four steals in the win.
Fellow junior Hunter Stanek added 10 points, two rebounds and one steal. Junior Tommy Crandall nearly missed a double–double with eight point and 10 rebounds. He also had two steals.
Junior Ethan Thorson chipped in seven points, four assists, three steals and two rebounds.
“I think the press will be something we can do to get out kids going and get our energy up,” said Hildreth. “I'm not saying we will use it every game, but we are pretty athletic so that lends to us pressing well.”
Saturday was more of the same as Hillsboro blitzed host Richland Center 69–39.
The Hornets (0–4) held tough early trailing only 13–12 at the end of the first quarter and 33–22 at the half.
But the Tigers clamped down on defense in the third-quarter and took control of the game with a 19–3 run.
Stockwell scored 12 of his game-high 26 points in the second quarter as Hillsboro pulled away for a 30-point victory.
“We got more disciplined defensively and stopped playing with our hands and started playing with our feet,” said Hildreth.
“We got some easy baskets and the was the story of the third quarter.
“Max got the ball in the middle of their zone and made good decisions. He was really hard to stop, especially in the third quarter.”
Stockwell added eight rebounds and had five of the team’s 19 steals in the win.
Fellow junior Joey Helgerson finished the game with 0 points and two rebounds.
Thorson started in place of senior Avery Rueckheim, who was home sick, and finished with seven points, two rebounds, two assists and six steals.
“He had been playing well all year and I was excited about how he responded to being in the starting lineup,” added Hildreth. “He always seems to be around the ball making a play.”
Matt Stekel grabbed seven rebounds and had one steal, one block and according to Hildreth, played really solid defense.
“Everybody did something to contribute,” said the coach. “It was a nice win.”
Hillsboro hosted fellow unbeaten Necedah (3–0, 1–0) on Tuesday night and will return to action Friday at Bangor (3–1, 1–0).
“It’s a big week for us,” added Hildreth.