Hillsboro senior Gaven Pinkley dunks the ball against Saint Louis University High on Saturday night during the final game of the JCAA Shootout at Jefferson College.
Ron Rigdon photo
By Russell Korando
Hillsboro didn’t have an answer for St. Louis University High senior Matt Leritz in the first half of Saturday’s final game of the Jefferson County Activities Association Shootout at Jefferson College.
The Junior Billikens’ second-leading scorer rang up 21 points by halftime with a variety of shots, from 3-pointers to turnaround jumpers in the paint.
After jumping out to a 14-6 advantage after the first quarter, the Hawks trailed 30-28 at the break. Something needed to be done at halftime to quell Leritz.
“We tried to contain their ball screens and make it tougher on (Leritz),” Hillsboro head coach Dan Johnson said. “The worst part of our defense in the second quarter was our offense. We weren’t able to score and get set defensively. We slowed them down in the third quarter and got some stops.”
After the break, the Hawks put a double team on Leritz any time he touched the ball and outscored the Junior Bills 18-4 in the third. That was enough for Hillsboro to beat SLUH 59-51 as the Hawks remained undefeated after seven games.
The Junior Bills (3-3) had beaten Metro Catholic Conference rival CBC 65-63 on Friday and Hillsboro took advantage of SLUH’s sluggish play in the first quarter, when head coach Erwin Claggett admonished his players for “not being ready to play.”
Usually known more for his defense than shooting prowess, Hillsboro senior Isaiah Martin tied with junior Michael Brewer to lead the Hawks with 19 points. Brewer also grabbed 12 boards and senior Gaven Pinkley had 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Martin downplayed the Shootout’s marquee matchup and said beating SLUH was just another win.
“We went out and did the same exact thing we always do, which is focus on defense and it’s just another game for us,” said Martin, the state javelin champion who has committed to participate in track and field at Purdue University. “We’ve got a lot of good things coming this season.”
Johnson mirrored Martin’s comments.
“It’s just another game for us,” said Johnson who guided the Hawks to a Class 4 district title last season. “We treat them all the same. Our guys are always ready to play, no matter who the opponent is. We hadn’t played a team with that kind of size or athleticism yet. I’m real proud of the way we competed and came back. The second quarter wasn’t very good, but we put a stop to it at halftime and played a good third quarter.”
Pinkley’s basket a minute into the third quarter gave Hillsboro a 31-30 lead. But SLUH’s leading scorer, Michaels Sanders, answered the next trip down the floor and the Junior Bills were briefly back in front.
It would be the last time.
Brewer sank a basket and 3-pointer on consecutive possessions as Hillsboro surged ahead to stay, at 36-32. Senior A.J. Hardin kissed a nice bank shot off of the glass for two points to cut Hillsboro’s lead to two, but after senior Sam Ratterman picked up his fourth foul with 2:49 left in the third, Martin and Brewer provided the rest of the points in the quarter for both teams and the Hawks’ lead swelled to 46-34 going into the fourth.
“Isaiah was awesome tonight,” Johnson said. “He’s awesome every night and tonight he was the open man, our other guys found him and he delivered.”
Leritz, who finished with a game-high 32 points, got hot again late in the fourth and SLUH surged to within four points of the Hawks. A basket by Leritz with 26 seconds left made it 56-51 Hawks, but Brewer hit a free throw and Pinkley scored the game’s last bucket.
Austin Fleming had the only two points off the bench for Hillsboro. Did that bother Johnson?
“It does not,” he said. “The bench guys are always ready and fired up. The open guy who gets the ball puts it in the basket.”
When the Hawks were having trouble with ball control in the second quarter, Johnson inserted rarely used sophomore Mark Moore.
“You might be seeing more of him,” Johnson said. “He’s good defensively and handles the ball well. And when things got shaky handling the ball, we threw him out there.”