HILLMAN-It's down to just two in the Hillman Class D district: Hillman and Onaway. Hillman won last year and has never won back-to-back district titles. Onaway hasn't won a district title in 25 years.
"It's something that would be very special and we're really excited to be in a position to do that on our home court," Hillman coach Eric Muszynski said.
If Hillman (19-1) wants to make school history, it's going to have to get past an Onaway (17-5) squad that has lost primarily to state ranked teams.
"I've had the opportunity to scout four or five Onaway games and it's probably one of the best teams they've had in a long time," Muszynski said.
The Tigers have picked up a nearly flawless record by sticking to accurate shooting, fast paced games and tight full court defense.
Hillman often presses defensively for an entire game, forcing its opponents to play an uptempo game. It utilizes tight defense from players like Gunnar Libby and Dylan Ross. Ross averages seven rebounds per game.
The Tigers tend to favor the three and often run plays to get shooters like Mason VanPamel and Ty Jones open at the three-point line. Jones hit five treys in Hillman's district semifinal game against Rogers City.
"We emphasize it a little bit. It's a dynamic to the game, one that can hurt you, but also help you. The kids spend a lot of time shooting the three, but we've developed a better inside game this year through players like Brendan Zimmer and Dylan Ross," Muszynski said.
Onaway coach Eddy Szymoniak is well aware of the danger of Hillman shooters.
"Obviously, Hillman can shoot the lights out from the outside. That's going to be one of our main focuses, shutting that down," he said. "(Mason) VanPamel and Ty Jones are their two big guys that can shoot. We're going to put a little emphasis and keeping an eye on them."
Joe O'Bradovich and Carlos Bautista have been Onaway's double-barreled offensive and defensive weapon all year.
O'Bradovich is a scoring danger from anywhere on the floor, with fast hands, good height and a 20 points per game regular season scoring average and 11 rebounds per game. Bautista averages 10, but uses his height defensively to pick up big blocks and steals.
"As a team, we look to (O'Bradovich and Bautista) to jumpstart us offensively and defensively, especially with Carlos down low on offense and defense," Szymoniak said. "Even if he's not doing much on offense, his defense can keep us in the flow of the game."
Onaway can expect good support from its other three starters. Andrew Prow is a danger on the perimeter, with the ability to drain dangerous threes.
Joe Sigsby is a quick point guard who can drive to the basket and knows how to get plays started. Szymoniak also expects good work from Chris Cleaver.
"(Cleaver) knows the game better than anybody. We know he doesn't have to score a lot of points, but his presence and his knowing the game is huge for us," Szymoniak said.
Onaway is looking to use its own man-to-man press and to break Hillman's press using accurate passing and fast break opportunities.
"They like to play a lot of full court pressure, as far as trapping the ball. We're going to expect to be ready to move the ball around to break the press," Szymoniak said.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.