CATLIN — The Schlarman Academy Hilltoppers played hard all night on Tuesday and gave the Cissna Park Timberwolves a good fight but ended up losing 61-45 in a Class 1A regional quarterfinal at Catlin.
The No. 7 ranked Hilltoppers were down 15 early in the third quarter caught fire and made an 8-2 to get within nine points at 31-22 and had several stops against the No. 2 Timberwolves, but couldn’t convert on the offensive end and get any closer the rest of the way.
“It is disappointing to lose in a regional because its all over until next year but I am very proud of each player tonight,” Schlarman coach Jason Henton said.
As the third quarter continued the Timberwolves regained their composer and had a run of their own of 10-2 to expand the lead to 41-24 with 7 minutes, 29 seconds left in the game.
“I didn’t think we were aggressive enough and (didn’t) attack them like we had discussed in pre-game, but during a few minutes span in the third and fourth quarters we played like we were capable of and that is when we got a big lead,” Cissna Park coach Kevin Long said.
The fourth quarter saw a lot of up and down basketball as both teams shot it well. Schlarman continued to battle and several times got it down to an 11-point lead but couldn’t get it to single digits to make another run.
It seemed that every time they would get a stop the Hilltoppers would hurt themselves with a turnover or miss an open shot.
“I am very proud of the effort we put in tonight, but we hurt ourselves with turnovers at important times of the game,” Henton said.
As the game began both teams tried to gain control of the paint and pushed the ball to their post players. As this game plan unfolded, the defense of the post players dominated for a while and both teams had to go outside.
Hilltoppers’ center Chris Kuchefski (four points, eight rebounds, eight blocks) had a strong performance in his final game at Schlarman. Ben Watson, another senior, had someone in his face all night because of his 3-point shooting ability and couldn’t get many looks at the basket.
“We are going to miss our seniors next year with their strong presence at the defensive end and their ability to make open shots,” Henton said.
“We survived and advanced to play another night, it wasn’t our best effort and Schlarman had something to do with that but we move on to play tomorrow night and I hope we play a better game,” Long said.
The Timberwolves will play Salt Fork today in semifinal action.