HILLMAN, MI- Being in the state quarterfinals is something the Hillman basketball program is familiar with. Winning and moving on to the Breslin Center for the state semi-final, not so much.
After three unsuccessful attempts at reaching the pinnacle of Michigan High School Basketball, the Tigers bring one of their most talented group to the quarters. With arguably the best player in school history in Trenton Taratuta and four seniors playing their best ball in March, the Tigers seem primed to next the next step.
As Hillman practiced for the final time before Tuesday’s quarterfinal clash against Frankfort, the team went about business as usual. With the school on spring break, the staff is trying to keep the schedule the same. Head Coach Eric Muszynski believes that this group is ready to be that team to get over the quarter final hurdle. ” I think in every program you remember that first district title, that first conference title and first regional title. Now we want to take the next step. It is hard to make the final four.”
The Tigers have been at the top of their game since the postseason. The team has won all four games by double digits . Trenton Taratuta has averaged 28.5 points per game in the post season. But it has been the impact of the rest of the team that has elevated Hillman to the final eight. Sophomore Guard Brendan Rouleau had 15 off the bench in the regional semi final. Braylon Firman hit four three pointers in the first half of the regional final. Senior forward AJ Jones has upped his scoring and had 10 points in the second half of the final. ” It is important to have depth” said Jones. “That way it is not all based on Trenton, so if he is having a rare off game he knows the rest of us can pick it up. So it has felt good to pick it up in the post season when we need it.”
It has been quite the community following for the Tigers, students have packed gyms as far as three hours away, and family and friends travel well to watch these kids play. It was a distinct pro Tiger crowd in Houghton Lake for the regional final. With the quarterfinal in Gaylord, just an hour drive from Hillman, it is sure to be another Tiger heavy crowd. “We need the community.” said Senior Center Caleb Hiveley. “We feed off them and their energy. The hype and everything that they bring.”
Hillman is just one win away from the Breslin Center. Frankfort is the last team standing between these Tigers and Hillman history. Tip off in Gaylord is scheduled for Tuesday at 5 PM.