Raven defense shuts down Tigers in district quarterfinal

By Jeff Yoder
Posted 2/17/21

Iowa Valley took a timeout with three minutes left in Monday’s district quarterfinal, clinging to a 37-34 lead. 

Heading back out on to the court, Hillcrest senior Eli Ours made a …

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Raven defense shuts down Tigers in district quarterfinal

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Iowa Valley took a timeout with three minutes left in Monday’s district quarterfinal, clinging to a 37-34 lead. 

Heading back out on to the court, Hillcrest senior Eli Ours made a statement.

“We are not going to lose this game,” he said to his teammates. 

The Ravens did not allow another point and advanced to the district semifinal with a 41-37 win. 

Tiger junior Brodie Ward was just five points shy of his season-average 23 points per game when Iowa Valley held a 35-28 lead with 4:30 to go. Then the Ravens ended the game on a 13-2 run. 

“(Ward) is a really good player, and down the stretch I thought Eli did a great job of guarding him,” Hillcrest coach Dwight Gingerich said. 

“You know, you can just see that Eli wanted it. And right there late in the last couple of possessions he did an outstanding job. That was maybe the difference in the game, at a point where we were making some plays and then defensively we were getting stops.”

Ours drove into the lane and dished to Aaron Hershberger for an easy basket with 2:31 left to cut the lead to one. About a minute later, John Hughes took advantage of an Iowa Valley turnover and threw a long pass to Grant Bender, who was fouled. Bender made both to give the Ravens their first lead since the first half. 

Ours stole the ball, and the Ravens swung it to Bender, who saw an opening to drive baseline for a layup. Bender was one of three Ravens in double figures with 11 points, joining Ours with 12, and Hughes, who also had 11. 

“Grant had a great game,” Ours said. Our offense struggled throughout most of the game, but then late I think we attacked the basket better.”

Hillcrest faced its largest deficit of the game at nine points after Iowa Valley scored the first eight points of the second half. Hughes ended the run and then Ours hit a pair of 3-pointers to cut the lead to three. Hughes tied the game at 28, but a 7-0 fourth quarter run put the Ravens in a hole again. 

Hughes had six points in the fourth quarter. 

The Raven offense struggled against the Tiger zone for much of the game. After taking a 9-3 lead, Hillcrest had just two field goals over the next 15 minutes and 16 seconds. 

The offensive issues were partly caused by the absence of usual starter Noah Miller, who had an untimely and unfortunate quarantine that coincides with the Ravens first week of postseason play. 

Gingerich said that the junior guard had been playing the best basketball of his career in the weeks leading up to the postseaon.

“He has been playing with a lot of awareness, he’s smart,” Gingerich said. “He plays so hard defensively. We miss Noah, absolutely. Just his decision making has really matured you know. His penetration, he’s become really a threat with that this year and we missed that.”

The highlight of the game came on an inbounds play when Ours stole the ball. He was falling out of bounds and threw it back in to Aaron Hershberger, who immediately tossed it to a cutting Aiden Krabill for a layup off the glass. It cut the lead to 35-34 with 4:03 left. 

Krabill came off the bench, but played the crunch time minutes for Hillcrest and made winning plays. 

“You know, he maybe didn’t do anything that gets his name up there,” Gingerich said. “But he, had a great skip pass to Eli for a three, got the ball inside to John. He played with calm. Defensively, huge rebounds a couple times. I’m just really proud of him.”

The Ravens will travel to face top-ranked North Linn in a district semifinal on Thursday at 7:00.

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Sheila Niemeyer

A VERY well-written article!! I appreciate how the team played well together. The senior players are excellent leaders and work well with their teammates. I enjoyed the play-by-play of the last four minutes of the game. Way to go Hillcrest Ravens!!

Thursday, February 18