The Hawks had just six turnovers against the Trojans, won their third straight game and were 11-4 going to St. Clair on Tuesday after the Leader deadline. Hillsboro was scheduled to play Jefferson County Activities Association large-schools rival Festus (10-4) last Friday, but a snowstorm forced it to be rescheduled to Feb. 9.

“We were playing a little loose with the ball,” Hillsboro head coach Dan Johnson said about the rash of turnovers. “Guys were trying to find their shot. Teams were keying on (Michael) Brewer and denying Ben Lampkins. Some guys took that to mean to drive the ball to the hole, but we wanted them to play with their heads up.”

Brewer, a senior forward, has been playing heads and shoulders above the competition all season. At some point next year, Brewer could be on the mound at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg clutching a scholarship in one hand and a baseball in the other. For now though, he’s the centerpiece of the two-time defending Class 4 District 2 champions.

Brewer scored a season-high 30 points against Herculaneum on Dec. 27. His lowest point total of the season was 13 against South Iron two nights later in the Bob Sechrest Jr. Christmas Tournament semifinals. Brewer led the Hawks with 17 points and 11 rebounds against Potosi.

After signing with Southern Miss in late July, Brewer informed Johnson that he intended to return to the hardwood for his senior year. As well as he played as a junior, Brewer is rectifying his decision to lead Hillsboro to perhaps a third straight district title.

“He’s having that kind of a year and there’s no reason to think it’s going to slow down,” Johnson said. “When Michael is there, you get 100 percent. He let us know early he was still planning on playing. He doesn’t do anything half-heartedly. It helps loosen him up knowing what he’s going to do for the next three or four years.”

Many wondered how Brewer would react to losing his running buddy at

Hillsboro when Gaven Pinkley graduated last spring. The two terrorized the opposition for two years and Pinkley is now playing for the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. Pinkley has played in all 15 of the Mules’ games and averages 16.3 minutes per contest.

“Gaven’s getting some minutes and learning on the fly how to play against 22-year-old guys,” Johnson said.

Junior Garrett Pinkley (6-1) is Gaven’s younger brother, and Johnson said he’s starting to understand his role on the team this year. Garrett has played in all 15 games, and is second on the team in rebounding and has blocked nine shots.

“He’s our do-it-all kind of guy,” Johnson said. “We ask him to play defense and rebound as an undersized big. If he makes a good hard cut and sets a screen, it will free up more space for our guards.”

Guards Mark Moore and Ben Lampkins share the primary ballhandling responsibilities for the Hawks, and when they deny the other team’s players from entering the lane on offense, it allows Brewer to go one-on-one inside, a matchup he most always wins. Lampkins (14.4 points per game) and Moore (14.1) have combined to make 74 3-point baskets this season.

“They keep the play in front of them and we’re not giving up as many straight-line drives,” Johnson said about his backcourt duo. “People think the big guys are the base of our defense, but the way we play a zone it’s different.

“One-on-one rebounding, Michael can box out anybody when his teammates block out the other four guys. Since our defense has been better, Michael has been able to feast on the defensive boards.”

Senior Isaac Readnour came off the bench against Potosi and made five 3-point baskets and finished with 15 points. Readnour has scored in double figures three straight games.

“Isaac came alive off of the bench,” Johnson said.

Ethan and Evan Worley transferred to Hillsboro from Windsor last month and they saw their first action with the Hawks at St. Clair. Johnson played his cards close to the vest about whether or not either would start, or how much playing time they would get. Both twins were honorable mention all-JCAA players last year and give the Hawks depth inside and outside.

“They’re eligible to play and we’re going to use our roster to our advantage,” Johnson said. “They add size and depth. We’re not sure how that plays out in a game yet. We’re a team and they are now part of it. That doesn’t change our team dynamic.”

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