The Hillsdale Hornets are certainly not earning any style points for their play Tuesday night, but they did earn a win and head coach Nick Langston will take it as he attempts to turn potential into a consistent level of high performance.
In a game marred by fouls all over the place and less than stellar displays of shooting from both sides the Hornets (3-1 overall, 1-1 SMAA) led by 18 midway through the final quarter and hung on for a 45-35 conference win over Stockbridge.
“I said all year last season, well, we’ve got to get used to winning, and winning close games — well, now’s the time, like their motto says, ‘Time to Shine,’” Langston said. “Now is their time to shine and tonight we didn’t, we got lucky with an ugly win, and we’ll take it.”
One of the clear stars of the contest though was Tiki Malone, who was a human bulldozer at times, causing havoc in the lane on offense and stepping into passing lanes on defense.
She scored a game-high 17 points, including a 9-for-15 effort at the foul line, and she added four rebounds and two steals.
Langston said it’s unfortunate that his junior guard had to be the one to take control inside the paint, on a team stocked with size, but he applauded her determination and leadership, things he has gotten from her every time out this season.
“She’s my quarterback out there and she’s my point guard. Julie (Shaffer) is my shooting guard and Tiki is in charge on the floor,” he said. “She is not a captain, but she is the leader on the floor and she’s done a great job of that this year. She’s got to learn to score more, she doesn’t score a lot of points for me. But, her job is to be my leader and to get my offense in sync when they are out of it.”
She was the one constant in a very inconsistent game.
Addison had just one girl score more than six points, getting 17 from Brooklyn Baldridge, and they had three girls foul out while committing well over 30 team fouls.
They struggled to move their feet on defense at times and as a result whistles were blowing all night long and the Hornets shot 45 free throws, making 26.
Langston said it’s a good thing the foul shots came his teams’ way because despite finding open looks, his team could not get into an offensive rhythm.
“We’ve got to make shots and it’s just all about confidence. Once we start missing ‘em we keep missing ‘em and when we make ‘em we keep making ‘em,” he said. “We’ve got to get on the making side and I’m glad it’s Christmas break, because we’ve got time, two weeks to practice.”
Shaffer had a 3-pointer and seven free throws to tally 10 points and Hayley Maystead added five points.
Anna Rumler had a strong night defensively with eight rebounds and three steals, to help the Hornets make life miserable on the opposition at times.
“We had to play defense because we certainly weren’t playing offense and it was ugly, ugly,” Langston said. “I think our defense is a big part of it, we’re tall and long. When we get our arms out we can cause problems for people. They’re not a bad team, they hung with Columbia Central till the end last week, and they just played an ugly-type game that you can’t get much going against.”
The Hornets couldn’t get much going at all near the end, when the Panthers made a late rally.
Nursing a 40-22 lead with under five minutes to play, Baldridge hit two triples and teammates added some free throws to cut the deficit to 41-34 before the Hornets finished it out.
“We’ve got to work harder in practice, we’ve got to get into a rhythm. Right now we’re out of sync; nobody is cutting at the right times, everybody is cutting at the same time (and) stupid fouls there at the end of the game, just things we shouldn’t be doing because we’re seniors now,” Langston said. “We’re seniors, not freshmen, this is the time to step up.”