Photo Courtesy of Hillcrest Academy

Things were still in doubt for the Hillcrest Academy boys basketball team Monday night in their district quarterfinal matchup with Holy Trinity Catholic…until they weren’t, as the Ravens pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 61-36 win. In a game heard on AM and FM KCII, the Crusaders took their only lead of the night early in the first frame at 6-5. Hillcrest was on top 12-8 after one quarter and used a 9-1 run during the second period to go up 29-16 at half. The lead would grow to 16 in the third and just when it looked like the Ravens were going to throw the knockout punch, it was HTC that delivered an 8-0 run to climb back within single digits before the most important exchange of the night. Crusader forward Mike DiPrima, on the floor in the third quarter with four fouls, picked off a Hillcrest pass and was headed the other direction, and hit a running layup after making contact with Raven senior Aiden Krabill. The officials called a charge, so instead of a chance to pull within five after a free throw for HTC, the lead remained at eight, Hillcrest got the ball back and DiPrima’s night was over. They wouldn’t let the Crusaders get any closer from that point. Leading 37-28 starting the fourth, Hillcrest scored 22 of the first 23 in the period to grow their lead as large as 31 before settling on the final 25 point margin. After the game, Hillcrest seniors Krabill, Alex Niemeyer and Noah Miller talked about their game and their roles on the team.

Miller, who suffered a season ending ACL injury in a December game against Pekin, said, “I’ve been trying to do the same stuff off the court that I was on. Being the guy that guys can go to if they need anything, try to set a good example. I miss playing with them on the court, and I know they miss playing with me but, they have done a great job and I love watching them play. It’s kind of interesting to see things from a coaches perspective, and I’m learning from the best! ”

Niemeyer added, “(My role is) helping the younger guys,  helping out where I can in practices and on the court. We were paying attention to that (fourth quarter run), getting really energetic on the bench and on the court. It’s a great feeling to see everybody getting into the game, it just makes everybody play better.”

Krabill expanded on his role as a senior, “During practice I’m helping people absorb plays and information that they need to know. On the court during the game, I’m kind of like the floor general I’d say. I’m helping people get to their places, helping us execute better and playing better as a team. (About taking charges), I’m kind of a fan of the dirty work. Dwight has always said that’s an ‘effort play’, so I’ve always wanted to do that. I always find myself in front of the big guy lowering his shoulder. I just try to shoot with confidence because confidence is key. You can feel the energy on the floor (during our runs).”

Grant Bender led the way for the Ravens, scoring 29 points on his 17th birthday, one shy of his career high. Luke Schrock got to double figures with 12 points. Hillcrest forced 16 Crusader turnovers. The Ravens are now 15-6 overall and advance to the district semifinals Thursday against Winfield-Mt. Union who was a 55-35 winner over the Highland Huskies Monday.