Hawks’ streak ends at 33 games, 686 days
Gilbert thrives in raucous environment to take heavyweight brawl
GILBERT — Conner Hill knew it wouldn’t last forever. Streaks never do. And as the sweat trickled down his face just minutes after the final horn, the South Hamilton senior was already looking forward Friday night.
What did he and his teammates learn? How can they grow?
“They is definitely a game we can build on,” Hill, the Hawks point guard said after fifth-ranked (Class 2A) South Hamilton lost a regular season game for the first time in 686 days, 70-65, to sixth-ranked (3A) Gilbert in a raucous environment that is usually reserved for a substate showdown. “This type of game gets you ready for the postseason and I’d rather it happen now than later in the season. This will make us better as a group.”
Gilbert (6-0, 5-0 HOIC) ended South Hamilton’s 33-game regular season win streak by playing with more energy and being tougher down the stretch. The Tigers forced seven fourth-quarter turnovers and outscored the Hawks 13-5 over the final 2:42 to become the first team to hand head coach Nathan Hill’s crew a loss outside of the postseason since Greene County way back on Jan. 27, 2017.
A three-point play in transition by sophomore forward Tanner Henningsen pushed Gilbert in front 64-61 with 1:54 to go and the Tigers never trailed again.
“The fourth quarter was probably the most disappointing part of it,” Nathan Hill said after his team compiled 18 total turnovers. “We had silly turnovers and that was frustrating because we were in control of the game. We let things snowball and basically handed them the game.”
South Hamilton (6-1, 4-1 HOIC) put together a 13-0 run in the third quarter and led by four before Gilbert’s Will Turner buried a deep 3-pointer from the top of the key at the buzzer to trim it to 52-51 heading into the final eight minutes.
The two teams traded the lead three times in the early stages of the fourth, but South Hamilton eventually appeared to gain the upper-hand. The Hawks went up 60-57, a lead that could have been bigger had they not missed 3 of 6 free throws during a stretch.
Turnovers late and a missed shot from point-blank range that would have put South Hamilton in front with one minute left on the clock allowed Gilbert to keep the advantage.
Two Cole Berg free throws with 10.4 seconds remaining sliced the Tigers’ lead to 66-65, but Henningsen answered with a pair of freebies to extend it back to three, 68-65. Henningsen was Mr. Automatic at the line; he went 9 of 9 and scored a team-high 18 points.
South Hamilton had one last chance out of a timeout, but a wayward pass down the floor was the final mistake and Gilbert’s Matt Barragy was able to ice it away with two more free throws with 3.1 seconds on the clock.
“We haven’t lost a game in a while, so it hurts a little bit, but we’ll bounce back,” Logan Peters said after helped the Hawks with 18 points, seven rebounds, six steals and three assists. “We really didn’t play as a team, but we’ve got great coaches and great kids and we’ll learn from this.”
Conner Hill poured in 17 points, Berg finished with 12, and Cade Balvanz produced a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Matt Ockey (15 points) and Turner (10 points) gave Gilbert three players in double figures.
Feeding off the home crowd, Gilbert jumped on South Hamilton early and led by as many as 11 points in the first quarter. The Tigers dialed it up from long distance eight times in the first half and finished with nine 3-pointers in all, the majority of them coming on drives and kick-outs to open shooters.
“We knew they could make shots, but at the same time we weren’t exactly getting a hand out like we wanted to,” Conner Hill said. “When you leave guys open, that’s what can happen.”
Conner Hill led a second-quarter comeback, as South Hamilton went on a 14-7 run over the final 4:38. He buried a pull-up jumper with 30 seconds to go and then raced from one end to the other and scored inside with five ticks left to pull the Hawks within 40-36 at the break.
Win or lose — and a win certainly would have been preferred — Nathan Hill knows the battle of top-10 teams will only help is group going forward.
“We needed a game like this because you have to have other teams that are good push you,” he said. “We both exposed each other’s weaknesses. We knew we had to be the more disciplined team and we weren’t.”
BJ Terrones, Gilbert’s head coach who led the Hawks to the state tournament back in 2014, agreed that both teams will benefit.
“This was a great environment, a postseason environment,” Terrones said.
Gilbert 70, South Hamilton 65
Friday at Gilbert
South Hamilton (6-1, 4-1 HOIC) — Aaron Hegland 0 0-0 0, Cole Berg 2 8-10 12, Sam Lewis 1 0-0 2, Doran Lutjen 0 0-0 0, Logan Peters 6 3-6 18, Quinton Grove 1 3-4 5, Conner Hill 7 2-2 17, Cade Balvanz 4 3-4 11. Totals: 21 19-26 65.
Gilbert (6-0, 5-0 HOIC) — Matt Ockey 5 2-2 15, Ben Simodynes 0 0-0 0, Matt Barragy 1 3-6 5, Will Turner 4 0-0 10, Jack Anderson 0 1-2 1, Tony Terrones 2 0-0 6, Tanner Henningsen 4 9-9 18, Jack Dresser 1 2-2 4, Jeff Rudman 3 0-0 6, Gage Christenson 2 0-0 5. Totals: 22 17-21 70.
S. Hamilton 16 20 16 13 — 65
Gilbert 21 19 11 19 — 70
3-point field goals — SH 4 (Peters 3, Hill); GIL 9 (Ockey 3, Turner 2, Terrones 2, Henningsen, Christenson). Rebounds — SH 32 (Balvanz 12, Peters 7, Grove 7). Steals — SH 8 (Peters 6). Assists — SH 8 (Peters 3, Grove 3). Turnovers — SH 18, GIL 15. Team fouls — SH 18, GIL 24. Fouled out — GIL: Turner.