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Hillman Drops Quarterfinal Heartbreaker to Frankfort

GAYLORD, MI- The long awaited trip to Breslin Center was just eight minutes away for the Hillman Tigers.  That wait is extended at least one more year as Hillman dropped a 59-57 thriller to Frankfort in the state Quarter-Final.

The Tigers were the better team four three quarters and took a 48-39 lead in the fourth. A 20-9 fourth quarter by Frankfort was enough to pull off the comeback and advance to Thursday’s semi final at Breslin Center.

The first quarter of this one was a slugfest as the nerves were being shaken off.  Hillman hit just two shots in the first eight minutes. Brody Applegren banked in a three at the buzzer as Hillman trailed 9-8 after one.  In the second quarter Hillman got rolling, Brendan Rouleau entered off the bench and sparked Hillman with his defense and energy.  The sophomore along with Caleb Hiveley powered a 13-5 Hillman run as they went ahead 21-14.  The teams went back and forth for the remainder of the quarter. Hillman led 30-25 at the half.

The third quarter as been Hillman’s best all year. Throughout the season they put away games in the third, tonight seemed no different. After two straight Frankfort buckets to trim the lead to one, Hillman ripped off a 12-2 run to go ahead 42-31.  A three from Braylon Firman was followed by a three from Trenton Taratuta.  A Hiveley bucket capped the run and put Hillman up 11.

Leading by nine with 6:30 to go, Hillman went cold and Frankfort capitalized. A 9-0 run in a span of two minutes tied the game at 50 with four minutes left. Firman gave Hillman the a 52-50 lead, Frankfort answered as Emerson Farmer, who had 20 on the night knocked down a three.  With a minute to go Taratuta gave Hillman the lead with a bucket, Frankfort responded with a bucket plus a foul from Bryce Plesha.

Trailing by four with 15 seconds, Taratuta knocked down a three to trim the deficit to one.  A free throw gave Frankfort a two point lead with three seconds. After a miss, Hillman hurried down court getting a good look from AJ Jones who missed at the buzzer to set off the Frankfort celebration.

Firman led the Tigers with 18 and was key in the third quarter run as he scored 11 in the frame. Taratuta added 16, Hiveley added 15. Farmer led all scorers with 20.

The Tigers know they missed a golden chance at the Breslin Center.  ” We had it up to eight or nine and that Frankfort team has been playing really well and we knew they could make a run” said Hillman Head Coach Eric Muszynski. ” This one stings” added the 18 year Hillman coach.

For the Tigers this ends another successful season. The group won 22 games and finished unbeaten in North Star League play. They competed well against Division One opponent Alpena and other bigger schools such as Tawas and Gaylord.  The team repeated as District champions and won their fourth regional title in nine years.  While the group graduates four starters, the return of their superstar in Taratuta should have Hillman right back at the top of the North Star League in 2024.