MOHICAN TWP. — The first seven-win season in eight years for the Black River boys basketball team had to wait after a forgettable 54-45 non-league loss to Hillsdale on Tuesday.
The Pirates (6-15) struggled and never held a lead against the determined Falcons (4-18).
“They came out and were more physical than we were defensively,” Black River coach Randy Endsley II said. “They had a good game plan and did a nice job helping from the backside on Jonathan (Herb) in the post. We didn’t see backside enough and didn’t knock down shots and missed free throws.”
Hillsdale was impressive defensively on Herb despite giving up at least seven inches on the 6-foot-9 senior.
Whether it was 6-2 Luke Honaker (11 points), 6-2 Ethan Drugan or 6-1 Jay Luikart (7 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) on the big man, they were determined to face-guard Herb and make someone else beat them.
“We weren’t too aggressive offensively,” Black River’s Caleb Simonson said. “They were more aggressive, period. Our offense revolves around mainly trying to get the big guy the ball because he’s right there and everyone isn’t as tall. They did a good job of taking that away and getting to the ball before he did.”
While Herb led all rebounders with nine, he scored just eight points and was held scoreless in the first and third quarters.
“It was more of what we weren’t doing,” Endsley said. “We needed to get the ball and get a reversal so that that face-guard turned into him pinning backside. We talked about it and we didn’t do it.
“They were bringing a guy from the backside corner and they were just running him. They were face-guarding and when we tried a lob, they would just run (that guy) over from the backside.”
Shot selection wasn’t at a premium for the Pirates, either. While Black River hit two more buckets than the Falcons, it was 18-for-46 from the floor (.391) and had double the amount of turnovers (18).
Add a 5-for-10 showing from the free throw line compared to Hillsdale’s 20-for-25 and the recipe for disaster was there.
“We weren’t screening when we had the ball,” Endsley said. “We talked about it all week and had a good practice of setting good, hard, physical screens. Then we came out tonight and we didn’t screen hard. When we don’t screen hard, we’re not going to get open looks.”
While Simonson (8 points), Herb, Caleb Poldruhi (8), Brennan Scheck (7) and Devon McLean (6) shared the load on the offensive side, Black River got crushed defensively by an offense that moved the ball quickly.
Carsten Betson scored seven of his game-high 15 points in the third quarter for Hillsdale, with Honaker adding a pair of 3-pointers.
“It was senior night for them and a home game, so hitting those threes boosted the crowd and gave them a lot of energy,” Simonson said. “It’s hard to come back from that. Their student section was cheering pretty loud. Everyone plays better when they’re getting cheered for. It made them hot.”
The Hillsdale junior varsity scored the last seven points to win 33-30. Logan Clifford led the Pirates with nine points.
Hillsdale 54, Black River 45
BLACK RIVER 8 9 15 13 — 45
HILLSDALE 8 12 18 16 — 54
Black River — Brennan Scheck 2-2-7, Caleb Simonson 4-0-8, Jonathan Herb 4-0-8, Caleb Poldruhi 3-1-8, Devon McLean 2-1-6, Jay Chidsey 1-0-3, Gavin Ford 2-1-5. TOTALS: 18-5-45.
Hillsdale — Mason Myers 1-0-3, Caden Mutchler 4-5-14, Luke Honaker 3-2-11, Jay Luikart 1-5-7, Carsten Betson 4-6-15, Ethan Drugan 0-2-2, Cole Soinnett 1-0-2. TOTALS: 14-20-54.
3-point goals — Poldruhi, McClean, Chidsey, Scheck, Honaker 3, Mutchler, Myers, Betson. Rebounds — Black River 27 (Herb 9), Hillsdale 21 (Luikart 6). Assists — Black River 15 (Poldruhi 5), Hillsdale 12 (Luikart 4). Records — Black River (6-15), Hillsdale (4-18). Junior varsity — Hillsdale 33, Black River 30.