Hill’s A Player
Senior erupts for 31, Hawks bury Rams
JEWELL — Conner Hill is all grown up. And, right now, he’s playing basketball like he’s the biggest guy on the court.
The 6-foot senior point guard was a Ginsu knife on Coach Jim Marsh Court Friday night, as he sliced and diced the Greene County defense whenever he wanted to in leading South Hamilton to its 29th consecutive regular season win and 19th straight Heart of Iowa Conference triumph, 79-47.
Bigger, stronger, quicker and able soar higher than in past seasons, Hill, a Morningside College recruit, attacked the rim at will and the Rams simply had no answer. He sat for nearly eight minutes and still managed to erupt for 31 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and three assists. He connected on 11 of 13 shots, including both of his 3-point attempts, and went 7 of 9 at the free throw line.
Compared to his first three seasons, he looked like Conner Hill 2.0. He says that’s how it feels as well.
“To me, it’s my team now and I’ve got to take over,” Hill, who is averaging 29 points and 10 boards, said. “I can tell I’ve gotten a lot stronger because I put the work in in the weight room, and my quickness is a lot better too.”
Known in the past as a 3-point specialist, Greene County opted to defend Hill to take away his perimeter game. And it was a mistake.
“With Conner, it’s maturity,” Nathan Hill, South Hamilton’s head coach and Conner’s dad, said. “He was a little bit of a late-bloomer, but now he’s looking to be aggressive and we need him to lead this team. He has to be able to take over and he’s doing a nice job right now of not settling. He’s getting to the hole and making good decisions.”
Hill went off for 13 first-quarter points and had 22 by the half, as South Hamilton (2-0, 1-0 HOIC) built a 45-28 advantage. Cade Balvanz, a junior center, owned the paint all night and played a key role in the sizable lead with 13 of his 15 points during the initial 16 minutes. He connected on 7 of 9 shots; the Hawks shot 60 percent overall as a team (31 of 52), including an eye-popping 74 percent (28 of 38) from inside the arc.
“We had some mismatches and one of our game plans was to get (Balvanz) the ball early and often and let him do his thing on the block,” Nathan Hill said.
With Conner Hill and Balvanz providing the points in the first half, Logan Peters was able to play the role of facilitator and the senior swingman dished out a team-high five assists. He got aggressive after the break and popped off for 15 of his 17 points.
Quinton Grove added nine points and Doran Lutjen came off the bench to score six.
Greene County (2-1, 0-1 HOIC) was crippled just 3 minutes, 12 seconds into the game when leading scorer Trey Hinote went down with an ankle injury after he landed awkwardly on Conner Hill’s foot following a deep 3-pointer than went down.
Hinote, a Dordt College recruit who scored 33 and 21 points in the Rams’ two wins, was helped off the floor and a few minutes later left the gymnasium on crutches. His absence changed the course of the contest.
“This was my first real test of the season playing against one of the state’s top scorers and I was looking forward to it,” Conner Hill said. “You never want to see a player get hurt like that.”
With Hinote on the floor, Greene County was rolling. It banged home four triples in the opening three minutes and led 14-6 when the injury occurred.
“They punched us in the mouth hard at the start and I would have liked to see how we reacted with him in the game,” Nathan Hill said. “A player of his caliber, we needed this game with him playing.”
Greene County wavered without Hinote and South Hamilton went for the jugular. The Hawks closed the first quarter on a 16-5 run and then outscored the Rams 45-15 in the second and third periods.
A baseline drive and bucket by Peters, followed by a transition basket by Lutjen pushed South Hamilton to a 67-34 lead heading into the fourth. The margin grew to as big as 38 before Nathan Hill emptied his bench.
Lance Hughes (14 points) and Carter Morton (13) scored in double figures for the Rams.
Grove (six), Sam Lewis (six), Peters (five) and Carter Hewitt (five) also had big nights on the glass for South Hamilton.
South Hamilton 79, Greene Cty 47
Friday at Jewell
Greene County (2-1, 0-1 HOIC) — John Rosado 0 0-2 0, Trey Hinote 2 0-0 6, Carter Morton 3 5-8 13, Cael Fisher 0 0-0 0, Lance Hughes 5 2-2 14, Nick Breon 3 0-0 7, Ethan Hueser 0 0-0 0, Caden Lowmiller 1 0-0 3, Skyler Ripperger 1 0-0 2, Cole Betts 0 2-2 2. Totals: 15 9-14 47.
South Hamilton (2-0, 1-0 HOIC) — Brock Galetich 0 0-1 0, Aaron Hegland 0 1-2 1, Carter Hewitt 0 0-0 0, Sam Lewis 0 0-0 0, Doran Lutjen 2 2-3 6, Logan Peters 7 2-2 17, Quinton Grove 4 1-1 9, Freddie Lewis 0 0-0 0, Kyler Hodnefield 0 0-0 0, Zeke Balderas 0 0-0 0, Conner Hill 11 7-9 31, Cade Balvanz 7 1-1 15, Cade Flaugh 0 0-0 0. Totals: 31 14-19 79.d
Greene Cty. 19 9 6 13 — 47
S. Hamilton 22 23 22 12 — 79
3-point field goals — GC 8 (Hinote 2, Morton 2, Hughes 2, Breon, Lowmiller); SH 3 (Hill 2, Peters). Rebounds — SH 42 (Hill 10, Grove 6, S. Lewis 6, Hewitt 5, Peters 5). Steals — SH 8 (Hill 3). Assists — SH 14 (Peters 5, Hill 3). Turnovers — GC 13, SH 14. Team fouls — GC 16, SH 14. Fouled out — none.