By ERIC BENAC
News Sports Writer
PELLSTON- The Hillman boys basketball team has become a juggernaut over the last part of the year. After struggling a little with a few losses in the beginning of the season, they've gone undefeated for the last nine games, including big defeats of Atlanta and Posen in districts and Pellston in the first round of regionals.
In this file photo, Hillman’s Mason VanPamel throws a no-look pass past Posen’s Warren Beach in the district finals. Hillman faces a 21-1 Cedarville in Pellston tonight for a regional championship.
Hillman’s Brenden Zimmer looks to pass upcourt during a game in Hillman. Zimmer’s height and rebound skills will be key to a Hillman win..
Hillman hopes to keep that unbroken streak alive tonight in Pellston. A win will take them to the first regional championship in Hillman basketball history and to the quarter finals. A loss ends their season. But to get there, they're going to have to get around the toughest team they'll face all season: Cedarville who are 21-1 this season and are ranked number two in Michigan in class D.
If Hillman wants the taste of first time championship, they're going to have to break down Cedarville's press, which is the hallmark of their game play style.
"With Cedarville, they've been doing the same thing forever. They hit you with the 2-2-1 full court press and try to force you into a fast paced tempo and force you to take quick shots. We gotta break the press, slow down the game and take good quality shots if we want to win," Hillman head coach Eric Muszynski said.
Cedarville has a variety of high quality players that Hillman will have to shut down to stay in the game. Joe Duncan is a sophomore point guard that leads the team on the court. He is a great all around shooter that seems to drop it whenever he wants.
Other players to watch for include Keith Bouschor, one of Cedarville's bigs as well as Derek Griffin.
"We're gonna have to rebound better than them all night and limit them to one shot per possession. Mike (Olschanski) and Dylan (Ross) have lead us all year in rebounds and they're going to have to rebound better than they have all year," Muszynski said.
Hillman has some solid scoring attackers in Mason VanPamel and Ty Jones.
VanPamel and Jones have developed a great attack as teammates and often work together to hit teams hard and set up easy shots.
VanPamel has been especially skilled at opening up offense and scoring opportunitis. He is capable of knocking down 20 points a night.
Other players that could step up for Hillman include Mike Klein, Hunter Fessler and Brenden Zimmer.
Klein is a high energy defensive player that is also a deadly perimeter shot. Fessler has led Hillman defensively and creates a lot of chaos on the court that has often lead to great scoring opportunities. Zimmer is a tall, solid utility player that may not always light up the board statistically but is always good for a few solid shots under the basket, excellent rebounding and second chance shots and the kind of unselfish offensive play that sets up scoring opportunities for his teammates.
Hillman may have to play the best game of their season to win but if they can hit hard like they so often do against their opponents and control the pace of the game, they are certain to give Cedarville a run for their money.
"I always tell the guys that if you want to be the man, you gotta beat the man. And right now, Cedarville is the man," Muszynski said.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.