Let’s get a few things straight right off the bat.
The Hillsboro Hawks finished the season with a 23-5 record, a fourth consecutive conference championship, and a third straight district championship.
Before Tuesday’s loss, the team had won 15 consecutive games.
All of that is much more relevant than what happened at Kirkwood High School on Tuesday. Look, there’s no getting around that Hillsboro got throttled by the St. Mary’s Dragons, 95-46 in a state sectional contest. But the ride that the Hawks took its fans and community on this season was a wonderful journey that won’t soon be forgotten. The contributions given by seniors Michael Brewer, Ben Lampkins, Seth Oshia, and Isaac Readnour will provide a long-lasting legacy for younger Hawks.
Not many folks in attendance prior to the game last night could fathom what would transpire. It took the Dragons four seconds to score their first two points. Forty seconds later they scored again off a steal. Head coach Dan Johnson quickly and smartly called a time out and gathered the Hawks together to try to stop the momentum before it got out of hand. Sixteen seconds after the timeout, Brewer hit a shot that made it 4-2.
But Hillsboro would never get closer. The speed and deadly shooting on offense, and the smothering defensive pressure used by St. Mary’s would cause Hillsboro fits. It took the Dragons 43 seconds to increase the lead to 10-2 before Brewer got a nice pass from Lampkins to make it 10-4. It took 26 seconds for St. Mary’s to score five more points to increase the lead to 11. At the 3:38 mark, after Brewer hit two free throws, Hillsboro took another timeout trailing, 21-8.
“We ran into a buzzsaw,” head Coach Johnson simply stated. Hillsboro trailed 36-15 after the first quarter. St. Mary’s hit five three pointers in the the first eight minutes, and had three consecutive treys in three trips down the court in the middle part of the quarter.
“If you look at their stats,” said Johnson, “they shot 25 percent or so from the three point line this season. That’s not what I saw tonight.” By the time the game was over, the Dragons hit ten-of-18 from beyond the arc. They also shot 64 percent from the field and 79 percent from the line.
At halftime, St. Mary’s was up 57-28. To put things into perspective, the Hawks allowed 57 or fewer points in 22 games this season. “We just got outplayed tonight,” said Mark Moore. “There’s just not much else that I can say, unfortunately.” Johnson said his team wasn’t built to come from behind on a team like this. “After falling behind like we did, it’s tough for us to play in our zone. And we helped out too with some bonehead turnovers early.”
As the game progressed, it was clear fans at Kirkwood were seeing one of the most complete games played by a team this season. Blocks, steals, assists, and a transition game that boggled the mind. It seemed like St. Mary’s knew exactly where each player would be as no-look, long passes turned into easy baskets. “There were four-point swings in bunches,” said Johnson. “It was just an avalanche.” Aiding in that were 17 assists, 13 steals, nine blocked shots (all by one player), and only four turnovers. “They were the fastest and best shooting team we have played since I’ve been at Hillsboro,” said Johnson.
Conversely, the stats collected by the Hawks were not what one was use to seeing either. Nineteen turnovers, no steals, just one blocked shot, and only 17 rebounds was highly unusual. Hillsboro only shot 43 percent on the night.
Brewer ended his career with his usual stellar stats however. He scored 20 points, grabbed ten rebounds, dished out four assists, and blocked a shot. Evan Worley scored eight points, while Readnour hit two three pointers in the fourth quarter to finish his final game with six points. Lampkins and Moore each scored five points, while Garrett Pinkley added two points.
Coach Johnson said that whether losing by one point like the Hawks did last year, or by a lot of points like they did this year, the hurt remains. “I hate for it to end like this,” he said. “I’m disappointed I don’t get to coach my seniors again. It ends abruptly. You’re not ever really ready for it.”
When speaking of his seniors, Coach Johnson didn’t mince words. “They were staples in the program. This is the 80th anniversary of our program, and we’ve never had a four year span like this. We won 93 games, and Brewer was a four-year starter. These are high quality team players. And all four of them will play sports at the next level. They have set a very high standard for those that will follow. Those four guys are the absolute model of what it takes to be successful–character, hard work, responsibility and positive attitudes. Their new coaches and teammates are getting some top-notch individuals.”
Lampkins noted very few things can top playing for the Hawks. “Playing basketball for Hillsboro has been the some of the greatest times of my life,” he admits. “I’ve met some of my best friends while being able to play the sport I love. Coach Johnson is a great coach and has taught me so many lessons outside of basketball as well. I’ll definitely never forget my time playing at Hillsboro, and it’s been a great journey.”
Readnour followed that up by saying, “I’m very proud. I’m so glad I was able to be a part of this great team. I loved playing with everyone. This is not how we wanted it to end, but I loved every second of this season. There are great things to come in the future for the remaining players.”
And it’s a little too early to think about next season, but the future is bright. “We’ve got a good core,” said Johnson. “With the kids we have coming back, and our JV team being 19-3 this season, now it’s up to them to put in the work. This game will help us get stronger, faster, and handle the ball better.” Ethan Worley agreed. “It just motivates us to move forward to work on next year.” Coach Johnson added, “If there are kids looking for an opportunity, now it’s their turn. We’re excited about our future.”
Thank you players, coaches, and staff for an incredible run. It sure was a lot of fun.