By Bud Milroy
The 2012-2013 basketball season has been a bumpy ride for the 4-13 (1-11 MCC) Catholic Central boys – full of inconsistency and youthful errors, but with occasional glimpses of excellence.
Playing at home in front of a “Grade School Night” crowd, the Hilltoppers turned in their best overall performance of the season and defeated Waterford High School 55-48 in a non-conference tilt.
“I amso proud of how my kids never give up, they come to play every day in practice and in every game,” said Catholic Central head coach Eric Henderson. “They want to get better and are working real hard to do so.”
From the opening tip-off that the Hilltoppers controlled and that led to Tegan Miles’ drive and score, they battled the Wolverines all night long. Waterford turned the ball over on its first opportunity, and that led to Spencer Wilker’s three-pointer from the top of the key.
Mark Bittmann’s dish to Wilker put the Toppers up 7-2 at the five-minute mark, but Waterford’s tough man-to-man defense forced a few Hilltoppers turnovers and forced a couple of hurried shots. Waterford then got its first lead of the game 8-7.
The Hilltoppers recovered and Gavin Foote’s jumper, along with a pair of free throws from Wilke,r closed out the quarter with Catholic Central leading 11-10.
The second quarter opened with a Waterford miss that led to a long rebound grabbed by Wilker, pushed ahead to Ben Heilgenthal and then back to Wilker for the lay-in.
Waterford followed with a five point run to take a 15-13 lead.
The Hilltoppers responded, with Bittmann knocking down hit first three-pointer of the game to give CCHS the lead back. He followed with another bucket moments later on a nice assist from Heilgenthal.
Catholic Central stretched its lead to five over the final two minutes, but Tanner Hunsucker hit a three for Waterford and brought the lead back to 22-20 at the break.
Waterford went to a half-court trap defense to open the second half. While the Toppers felt the defensive pressure, they managed to work through the trap and eventually extended the lead to 30-22.
Waterford once again switched defenses this time to a full court zone press. After trading scores, Bittmann hit his second bomb of the night to give Catholic Central it biggest lead at nine with less than a minute to play in the third quarter.
Hunsucker closed out the quarter on a personal five point run to pull the Wolverines back as play entered the final quarter with Catholic Central leading 35-31.
The final quarter began with each team trading scores. With the difference still at four points, Miles scored in the paint for Catholic Central. Justin Steffens then answered with a three-pointer for Waterford. Following a pair of missed Hilltopper free throws, Hunsucker’s three-pointer evened the score at 41 with four minutes to play.
Coming out of a timeout, the Toppers inbound play produced a basket from Miles and also drew a foul. Miles completed the three-point play. Ross Gunderson answered for Waterford to make the score 44-43.
The Hilltoppers then went to work from the free-throw line. Wilker had the lone basket in the final minute and a half, and Bailey Wright went six for eight at the line as CCHS closed out the win.
“We’ve been talking all season about finding some consistency, avoiding scoring droughts and handling the pressure,” said Henderson. “Tonight we did those things and battled back when at several key times in the game we could have folded.
“Tegan (Miles) had a great game tonight. I’ve been telling him all season we’ll go as far as he can lead us and he has really come on in the second half of this season.”
Three Toppers reached double figures in scoring. Wilker led with 17 points, including three from long range. Miles finished with 16 points to go with six rebounds. Wright added 10 points.
Waterford’s Tanner Hunsucker had a game high 24 points.
Over the weekend, the Toppers got off to a slow start at St. Thomas More and dropped a Metro Classic Conference game, 60-46. The Toppers trailed 18-9 after the first period and played the rest of the game near evenly but never were able to get back in the contest.
Hilltoppers upend Waterford in non-conference play
By Bud Milroy