Boys' Basketball: TOP TEN SHOWDOWN
By BRANDON HURLEY
A mid-winter’s slumber will be met with a rude-awakening this week.
The Greene County boys’ basketball (6-3) team returns from a 14-day layoff to spar with undefeated and fifth-ranked South Hamilton Friday, Jan. 5 in Jewell.
The Hawks, 2017 state tournament qualifiers, are 10-0 averaging 62.8 points per game (46.5 percent), and are one of only 12 unbeaten teams left in the state. The Heart of Iowa Conference front-runner was the first 2A squad in the state to double-digit wins while they are fourth in free throws made (119), as of Tuesday, Jan. 2. South Hamilton is outscoring their opponents by 20.5 points per game during their 10-game win-streak, the ninth-best margin in the state.
The Hawks are atop the conference with a 6-0 record, a game ahead of both Greene County and PCM (5-1).
The defending conference champions handed PCM (7-1) its only loss of the year back on Dec. 15, a 70-68 nail-biter in Monroe.
Cole Berg (11.4ppg) dropped in 23 points including 11 free throws and eight rebounds in the victory.
Conner Hill is the Hawks leading scorer (12.9ppg), but is just one of four starters the Hawks deploy averaging double figures in scoring. Marco Balderas, who led the HOIC in assists per game last winter, is averaging 15.8 points and five assists per game in his first four contests back from an injury.
Logan Peters chips 12 points per game on 56 percent shooting while Berg rounds out the scoring at 11.4 points per game.
Hill is also dishing out three assists per game while swiping a pair of steals per contest.
The Hawks don’t rely much on the three-ball, only having made 37 shots all year at a 30 percent clip.
South Hamilton beat out Greene County for the conference title a year ago, as the two squads split the season series, each winning on their opponent’s home floor. The Hawks were 14-2 last winter while the Rams fell a game short at 13-3. Many of the same players will see action again Friday minus two key contributors – Truman State freshman Collin Hill and Greene County all-time leading scorer, Trey Tucker, who graduated in the spring.
South Hamilton is 32-3 in their last 35 games, having lost just two of their last 20 conference games.
The Rams stayed busy over the winter break, scrimmaging Ballard, Kuemper and ASHTW, Avoca. That competition and the notion that they did play with, and beat South Hamilton a year ago should give Greene County the extra boost it needs coming out of the long lay-off.
“I don’t think it will take too much to get motivated,” Greene County head coach Chris Nelson said. “It’s the end of our first half of our conference schedule and it would be nice to end on a high note.”
A win in Friday’s contest will go a long way in the Rams’ hope to conquer a conference title as they play PCM and South Hamilton each once more. The three HOIC squads are the only teams in league play with less than three losses, essentially setting up a three-team race.
“South Hamilton is a very confident team,” Nelson said. “They are playing very well, they do things the right way. They are coached well and don’t make a lot of mistakes. It’ll be fun. If we win, we won’t have to rely on as many teams to do things for us.”
A weird quirk in the schedule follows Greene County’s top 10 showdown as they are off for seven days until they host Saydel Friday, Jan. 12.
Greene County’s Trey Hinote is third in the league in scoring at 16.9 PPG while senior Wade Adcock (14.8 PPG) continues to lead the HOIC in rebounding at 10.8 RPG, which is the seventh best total in 2A. He’s also third in the league with a 57 percent shooting rate.
Greene County girls back in action tonight
After an unrelenting and brutal schedule which witnessed the Rams square off against four top 10 foes in six games, the Greene County squad catches a bit of a break, at least on paper. Their next two opponents, Woodward-Granger and South Hamilton, have a combined five wins as the Rams (4-7), as Greene County snapped a six-game losing streak last night against Woodward-Granger.
Greene County head coach Dean Lyons is looking for some extra scoring out put. Ram senior Laurin Lyons leads the team in scoring (11.5ppg) and assists (31).
“They throw a few extra girls on Laurin (Lyons) and we haven’t had any one else step up to take shots,” Greene County head coach Dean Lyons said. “We are lacking confidence. We have to get a win. Winning helps. We do have open shots but I think some times the girls are tentative to take them. We can’t score unless we shoot the ball.
The Rams split their season series with South Hamilton (3-7) last winter, Greene County’s HOIC foe Friday at 6 p.m. in Jewell. The Hawks are 1-3 in their last four games and boast wins over Ogden (56-45), Gilbert (46-45) and Saydel (46-37). They average 36.8 points per game at a 27.8 percent clip. This two-game stretch, coupled with a home tilt against Saydel next Friday (Jan. 12), could swing the whole season, Lyons feels.
“Our first three ball games will be key,” the coach said. “We have to, let’s not sugar coat it, we have to get two or three of those. If we get that, all of a sudden we are 6-7 and everyone is feeling good about themselves. If we run the table, everyone is having fun again.”