Hillman advances to district championship with victory over Hale

Wednesday’s postseason opener may not have been as dominant as the Hillman boys basketball team might have hoped for, but in the end, the Tigers still rolled their way to a convincing 56-38 win over Hale in a Division 4 district semifinal game in Mio.

The Eagles (11-12) had no answer for Hillman superstar Trenton Taratuta as the junior was en fuego right from the opening tip.

Taratuta nearly matched Hale in the opening quarter, scoring 10 points to get the Tigers (19-4) off to a fast start as they led 21-11 after one quarter.

Taratuta remained perfect in the second quarter, knocking down a three and adding another bucket early in the quarter as he started seven for seven from the field to finish the half with 17 of his game high 25 points and help Hillman extend its lead.

The Eagles did all they could to hang around and kept the game as close as they could throughout the first half as Hillman held a 32-20 lead at the break.

The Tiger defense clamped down in the second half, beginning with a strong effort in the third quarter, holding Hale to just five points as Hillman broke the game open and took a commanding 46-25 lead into the fourth quarter.

“We just talked about effort tonight. We’re usually pretty tenacious on the defensive end and we didn’t really show that in the first half, we kind of just went through the motions. Personally, we were probably looking ahead a little bit to the matchup on Friday here with Mio and that’s human nature,” Hillman coach Eric Muszynski said. “Friday is going to be packed and we need to have a greater defensive effort. We have some things to work on, as will Mio, but we’re just ready to get to that point. Our first goal was taking the conference and now we focus on winning a district on Friday.”

The Tigers continued to lock down defensively early in the fourth while making their shots on the offensive end to continue building its lead as Hillman cruised to victory.

Along with Taratuta’s 25 points, Caleb Hively added 12 points in the Hillman win.

The Tigers advance to Friday’s district championship game where they will square off with North Star League rival Mio for the second time this season.

Hillman handed Mio its lone loss of the season in convincing fashion and will look to do the same Friday night in Mio, while capturing a district title in the process on the Thunderbolts’ home court.