No. 3 Hawks blister Chickasaws, collect 3rd straight trip to state

South Hamilton senior guard Conner Hill (25) scores an uncontested bucket during the opening minute of the third quarter against New Hampton in Saturday’s Class 2A Substate 2 final in Mason City. It was part of a 27-1 South Hamilton run that put the finishing touches on the Hawks’ 63-31 rout. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

MASON CITY — The students decked out in white waited until the banner was securely in the players’ clutches before they stormed the court Saturday afternoon.

But amidst the hoops and hollers, hugs and high-fives, there was a sense that the hearts of those in and out of uniform weren’t 100 percent into the celebration. A sort of been there, done that vibe hung around the mob before it quickly splintered.

Yes, third-ranked South Hamilton is headed back to the state tournament for the third consecutive season, the fourth time in six years and the ninth time overall. But the job is far from done.

“This is what we expect,” South Hamilton senior point guard Conner Hill said after he scored 15 points and dished out five assists to help the Hawks dismantle New Hampton, 63-31, in a Class 2A substate final. “In previous years it’s been exciting just to get down there, but we know we have a lot more work to do.”

The Hawks (21-1) earned the latest trip to Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines by suffocating New Hampton (12-12) in the second and third quarters with relentless defense that translated into too many to count breakaway baskets at the other end.

South Hamilton Athletic Director Todd Coy (left) presents the Hawk players with a Class 2A state qualifier banner following a 63-31 romp over New Hampton in Saturday’s Substate 2 final at Mason City High School. It is the third straight state appearance and ninth overall for the Hawks. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

The Chickasaws led 16-15 following a Tanner Lane 3-pointer from the corner with 4:15 remaining in the second quarter. But their next basket didn’t come until a runner in the lane by Drake Wemark with 43 ticks left in the third — a span of 11 minutes, 32 seconds — and by that time South Hamilton had built a 27-point advantage.

Quinton Grove lived in the jersey of New Hampton leading scorer Tristan Sweitzer and held him to just 11 points on 3 of 10 shooting. South Hamilton also forced 16 turnovers and came up with nine steals, seven of them by Cole Berg.

“Coach (Nathan Hill) told us if shots aren’t falling we’ve got to get back on the defensive end and that’s what we did,” Berg said after he poured in a carer-high 25 points and yanked down 11 rebounds in the rout. “We watched film together and coach told us we had to get the ball of out (Sweitzer’s) hands and we did that.”

Berg’s 11 field goals matched New Hampton’s entire output. The senior also distributed three assists for good measure.

New Hampton opted to play a 3-2 zone and Berg was assigned to the middle, which allowed him to attack the basket or feed teammates. After a hesitant beginning, he torched the Chickasaws.

Cole Berg (5) uses the glass to score on a baseline drive during the fourth quarter against New Hampton during Saturday’s substate final. He poured in a career-high 25 points. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“We wanted Cole in the middle of that zone because he does a good job of attacking,” Nathan Hill said. “Once he started attacking he realized there was nobody that could stop him and that was great to see.”

Logan Peters added 12 points and five assists in the runaway. Grove chipped in seven points, all of them coming in the second half, and Doran Lutjen had four off the bench.

Surprisingly, South Hamilton was shaky throughout the first quarter as New Hampton built an early 11-5 lead. The Hawks committed five of their 11 turnovers during the period.

“You’ve got to get those jitters out at some point,” Peters said. “But we held it together in that first part and didn’t let it get out of hand.”

It was knotted at 16 when Hill buried the first of his two 3-pointers with 3:50 remaining in the second quarter and it turned out to give South Hamilton the lead for good. Later in the period he rejected Carter Ferrie from behind and started the break the other way. He reached the paint before he dished to Peters for a bucket and foul.

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“That just completely turned the game around,” Conner Hill said. “It was going crazy in here and that’s where they folded a little bit.”

South Hamilton finished the first half on a 9-0 run to go up 28-18 at the break. And it only got worse for New Hampton the rest of the way.

The Hawks’ surge eventually grew to 27-1; they outscored New Hampton 37-8 in the second and third quarters.

And much of it started at the defensive end.

“The speed of the game slowed down for us and sped up for them,” Nathan Hill said. “As soon as that happened, as a coach that’s exactly what you want.”

DFJ photo/Troy Banning

South Hamilton scored on six layups in the third period alone after New Hampton pulled out of its zone and switched to full-court pressure. Conner Hill carved up the press, and Berg, Grove, Peters and Lutjen were all in position to make the Chickasaws pay.

“Once they started pressuring, we knew we had them where we wanted them,” Conner Hill said. “We could attack the middle and just finish at the hoop.”

South Hamilton shot 51 percent overall and held New Hampton to 25 percent from the floor.

Sweitzer was the lone Chickasaw player in double figures. But the pressure he faced eventually boiled over late in the third period when he was whistled for a technical foul.

Winners of 15 straight games and 45 of 47 over the last two seasons, South Hamilton will now wait to see where it will be seeded and who it will face a week from now in the state quarterfinals.

Just don’t expect the Hawks to do much more celebrating in the lead-up.

“Obviously this feels great, but we’ve lost out on some opportunities down there,” Nathan Hill said. “So we have to maintain focus and I think this group will.”

S. Hamilton 63, New Hampton 31

Class 2A Substate 2 Final

Saturday at Mason City

New Hampton (12-12) — Nolan Howard 0 0-0 0, Austin Flugum 1 0-0 3, Luis Salas 0 0-0 0, Connor Rochford 0 0-0 0, Tanner Lane 2 0-1 6, Tristan Sweitzer 3 5-6 11, Ryan Boeck 0 0-0 0, Connor Croell 0 0-0 0, Dillon Roberson 2 1-2 5, Drake Wemark 3 0-0 6, Noah Fenske 0 0-0 0, Carter Ferrie 0 0-0 0, Ivan Camarillo 0 0-0 0, Mason Lane 0 0-0 0. Totals: 11 6-9 31.

South Hamilton (21-1) — Brock Galetich 0 0-0 0, Carter Hewitt 0 0-0 0, Cole Berg 11 3-4 25, Sam Lewis 0 0-0 0, Doran Lutjen 2 0-0 4, Logan Peters 4 4-9 12, Quinton Grove 2 3-4 7, Freddie Lewis 0 0-0 0, Kyler Hodnefield 0 0-0 0, Ty Skartvedt 0 0-0 0, Conner Hill 5 3-4 15, Cade Balvanz 0 0-0 0, Cade Flaugh 0 0-0 0. Totals: 24 13-21 63.

N. Hampton 13 5 3 10 — 31

S. Hamilton 11 17 20 15 — 63

3-point field goals — NH 3 (T. Lane 2, Flugum); SH 2 (Hill 2). Rebounds — SH 32 (Berg 11, Peters 6, Hill 5). Steals — SH 9 (Berg 7). Assists — SH 15 (Hill 6, Peters 5). Turnovers — NH 16, SH 11. Team fouls — NH 19, SH 13. Fouled out — none.