By RJ Walters / Daily News Sports Editor
As published in the Hillsdale Daily News on March 6, 2009
It was a perfect home finale for Hillsdale’s five seniors Thursday night.
The Big Three, as head coach Brad Felix calls them — Nick Kelley, Scott Lantis and Mitchell Gabrielle — all had their way offensively, totaling 58 points, senior forward Brennan Holroyd played shut-down defense on a center who killed the Hornets last month and Kyle MacDonald put in six points. Everyone was smiling, fans were having a good time and Hillsdale paid back Lansing Christian (14-6 overall) with a fundamentally sound 73-52 win, helping build some momentum heading into district play next week.
“It was a blast. I think we came in really relaxed with Senior Night tonight, we all just wanted to enjoy it one more time at The Hive. I think because we were so relaxed we were kind of just having fun — you saw the smiles,” said Lantis, who scored 19 points, including three 3-pointers, to go with four assists. “Gabriele, Kelley and I got together before the game and came out here before anyone was here and realized this is it. It has been an amazing ride, coach Felix is an amazing coach to play for, we’ve been really truly blessed in our time here at Hillsdale, and tonight was a fun way to go out.”
Gabrielle scored 25 points to go with seven boards, five assists and four steals and Kelley was good for 14 points, after he nearly got shut out the last time the two team’s met, when the Pilgrims pulled out a 57-54 victory.
“It was good to see we were firing on all cylinders. Kelley was playing awesome down low, Mitchell is always awesome and I got some shots to fall and so did Mac and those guys and this is a good time to start getting things together,” Lantis said.
While the offense was strong the entire way , shooting 56 percent from the field and totaling 14 assists to just eight turnovers, it was the Hornet defense, specifically Hillsdale’s post warriors who were the difference.
Pilgrims junior center Mickey DeVries went off for 25 points and 18 boards the last time the teams battled. On Thursday, thanks to a three-pronged attack from Holroyd, Kelley and Kurtis Condon, DeVries was constantly forced away from the basket and made just three free throws for three points the entire contest, while being held to four rebounds.
“Brennan Holroyd gets the player of the game man, he shut down (DeVries) all night, not necessarily a stat thing that you’ll see in the newspaper as a stat, but he absolutely did an amazing job tonight,” Lantis said. “Our (post defense) was really our focus because he tore us up at their place and Tyler, Brennan, and Nick need to all be commended for that defensive effort.”
DeVries was visibly frustrated throughout the contest and took just six field goal attempts and was eventually pulled with almost seven minutes to go.
Felix said his boys executed the game-plan to near perfection.
“They were told they were to have an arm-bar on him the entire time, so we wanted to play physical with him because we thought he got frustrated in (Lansing) when we played physical in the second half,” he said. “I told Brennan and Kurtis…if I catch you boxing out at the top of the key and you get zero rebounds all night long, you’ve done your job. We wanted to keep him on the perimeter…and we did, those two guys deserve the game ball.”
Matthew Rahme tallied 12 points for Lansing Christian and Greg Garza finished with seven points and three assists, but a 26-14 margin after just one period proved too much for them to overcome.
Pilgrims head coach Mike Delano took several timeouts to try and right the ship in the third quarter, but his efforts proved fruitless and the Hornets were comfortably ahead 62-38 heading into the final period.
“We played well tonight, we played inspired a little bit with Senior Night and everything,” Felix said. “It was nice to see those guys get out and play well together and I thought all our seniors pitched in and did a pretty good job tonight.”
Felix said he’s glad to have built some momentum after a pair of tough losses, but he know his team has to be physically and mentally ready to go come Monday, when the Hornets take on Coldwater in district play at Marshall. The Cardinals out-gunned the Hornets at the Hive earlier this season, but Felix said he thinks his team is as good as both Coldwater and Marshall, who they could play later in the week, if not better.
“It’s a loaded district with us being loaded too. We really feel like we’ve got a shot at winning this thing if we bring our A game to Marshall next week,” he said. “We wanted to get a little momentum tonight, we wanted to get some confidence after two losses, we weren’t feeling good about ourselves yesterday.”