By RJ Walters / Daily News Sports Editor
As published in the Hillsdale Daily News on Jan. 31, 2009
There was no way Hillsdale was letting Stockbridge ruin this year’s homecoming festivities.
In 2008 the Panthers rolled into the Hive and shocked the Hornets in front of a lively crowd, one of two losses Hillsdale took at the hands of Stockbridge last season, but in 2009 some inside-out domination by the Hornets turned the Panthers inside-out.
The Hornets (8-3 overall, 4-1 SMAA) out-rebounded the Panthers 59-27 on the glass and buried a season-high 10 3-pointers en route to a 77-52 conference victory.
“They did ruin (homecoming) for us last year and we did come off our loss to Western (Wednesday) but we bounced back well. We made some shots, played good ‘D’ and I’m just glad we came out on top,” said Hornet senior Mitchell Gabriele, who scored a game-high 22 points to go with nine rebounds and seven assists.
Early on it looked like the contest might be a toss up with the two teams trading baskets, but an 8-0 spurt highlighted by several steals and layups by Gabriele gave the Hornets a 21-17 cushion after one quarter.
It was more of the same early in the second quarter with Panthers forward Thomas Lovachis hitting a triple to pull his team within 24-28, but a steady flood of Hornet 3-pointers soon followed.
Kurtis Condon hit a long-ball, Kyle MacDonald drilled one from the top of the arc and Mike Bakerjian came in off the bench to drain a pair of 3-pointers, the second with 15 seconds left in the half to give Hillsdale a comfy 41-25 lead.
“It’s only one game so I don’t want to get too excited, but we’ve got guys who are capable of shooting from the outside and it’s just a matter of getting everyone clicking at once,” Hillsdale head coach Brad Felix said. “If we can get Mitchell, Mac and Lantis all shooting the ball well with Bakerjian coming off the bench…it makes our inside game all the more potent.”
The Hornets were 10-of-25 from 3-point range as a team and as Felix said, it certainly opened things up inside.
Senior Nick Kelley was a double-double machine with 15 points and 16 rebounds, despite missing a handful of shots within a few feet of the basket.
Brennan Holroyd pulled down 13 boards and the Hornets more than doubled up its opponent on the glass.
“We knew we were bigger than they were and I feel now looking at the game that we were more physical than they were and it showed. Last game we weren’t physical, but tonight we got after it,” Gabriele said.
Gabriele was pleased with the post production, but more excited about how he and his teammates lit up the scoreboard from long range.
“It’s a confidence builder shooting the 3-pointer like that. It will really get you down if you’re missing and keep missing and keep firing, but when we make those shots it gets the crowd going and pumps us up,” he said.
Felix said he was pleased with Gabriele because he told the entire team they had to move the ball more and find open teammates following the loss to Western and his point guard led the way in that department Friday night.
Gabriele said it’s all about being a smarter player and letting the game just happen.
“I’m just trying to have the game come to me,” he said. “I’ll get my points and coach sat down and talked to me about how sometimes I might force it or try to do a little too much. It was good just dishing it out tonight.”
Backcourt mate Scott Lantis pitched in with 13 points and MacDonald finished with eight.
Lovachis led Stockbridge with 15 points and despite just returning from a bout with mononucleosis Jeff O’Brien pitched in 10.