By RJ Walters / Daily News Sports Editor
Published in the Jan. 21 edition of the Hillsdale Daily News
In a battle of two of the finest guards in connecting counties the quicker, calmer one came out on top Tuesday night.
Mitchell Gabriele led Hillsdale with a game-high 32 points, but Coldwater guard Cameron Holicki was by far the quickest guy on the floor and his 18 points and nine assists helped the Cardinals (7-4) overcome an 11-point second quarter deficit to down the Hornets 73-61 at The Hive.
“We couldn’t contain (Holicki), he just killed us. He penetrated us to death,” Hillsdale head coach Brad Felix said. “I could really give a rip on how many points anybody else had on that team, I guarantee you they were a result of Holicki. Either him penetrating and dumping it or penetrating and shooting it, where we helped and were out of position for the rebound and they got cheap ones off the glass.”
Combined with 19 points and 16 rebounds from forward Jacob Robison, Holicki’s efforts were too much for a Hornets (6-2) team that got just three points from Scott Lantis and saw Nick Kelley (10 points) foul out early in the fourth quarter.
It didn’t help much either that Hillsdale shot just 34 percent from the field, allowing a Cardinals team that shot 53 percent back into the contest despite 16 turnovers in the first half and 26 overall.
Gabriele had 15 points before the intermission and the Hornets got out to 28-17 lead, before Coldwater closed the gap to 33-27 by halftime.
“We just weren’t playing our style of basketball. We had 16 turnovers, they had 10 offensive rebounds and in my mind that’s 26 possessions that we gave them,” Coldwater head coach Brian Stevens said in regards to the first half. “So if we just cut down on those things we knew it would be a better half and that’s the way it worked out.”
It was better for the Cardinals, in just a number of minutes. Spensor Tanner and Robert White hit back-to-back three pointers and coupled with several Hornets miscues Coldwater had a 44-41 lead. They wouldn’t trail the rest of the way.
Much of the reason was Robison who scored 14 points in the second half and had three monster blocks during the decisive final two quarters.
“We had film and scouting on him and he’s another matchup issue. But again, I don’t think he hurts us that much if we contain Holicki,” Felix said.
Stevens said he was very pleased with how Robison and his teammate fought back, but wanted to talk more of his team’s defense than offense.
“I’ve got to give credit to (Bobby) White because he did a great job on Gabriele. He really took a lot of shots out there…and we kind of took him out of his game so I think that was a big key,” Stevens said. “It was just a matter of playing our game and the last 16 minutes I was really happy with the way we kept our composure and played our kind of basketball.”
Gabriele was 10-of-25 from the field, including 2-of-9 from beyond the arc and back-court mate Lantis was just 1-for-11 from the field.
Felix said he knows his guys have better efforts in them and in the in the big picture this game doesn’t worry him.
“It’s a non-league game, it’s a good measure-up for us at districts, but I don’t think we can’t beat that team. We learned some things from it, we take some notes and move on, it’s that simple,” Felix said. “We need to play teams like that and it gives us a bit of a gauge of where we’re at if we want to win a district championship.”
To go along with his 32 points Gabriele notched seven boards, six steals, three assists and two steals.
Kyle MacDonald pitched in eight points, including two triples for Hillsdale.
Tanner finished with 11 points for Coldwater and White added 10.