Young Hilltop Team Begins To Take Shape In Season Opening Win

(November 28, 2014) – WEST UNITY: With only one senior returning to their roster for the 2014-15 season, there were many questions as to what could be expected out of the current Hilltop Girls Basketball squad.

If Friday night was any indication, the answer to most of those questions would be big things.

The Lady Cadets took down North Western Ohio Athletic League opponent Liberty Center on that particular evening, besting the Tigers 57-48 within the friendly confines of West Unity. And that lone senior, Destiny Denton, showed the poise that comes with experience as she led her team into battle. It can be difficult for shorter players to earn trips to the free throw line, yet the 5’5” guard was able to score 7 of her 9 points from the charity stripe. Perhaps more impressively, she was able to pull down 6 rebounds, also making 4 assists in the game.

Cierra Grant was the star of the evening, however. The junior put up 20 points in the Cadet victory, leading the offensive attack for her unit. She also came close to collecting the most rebounds for Hilltop as well, with her 8 falling just short of teammate Karrisa Crisenbery’s 9 boards. Crisenbery also added 8 points and 4 assists to the victory effort.

A strong defensive presence on the court, junior Bailey Funkhouser pilfered the ball from the Tigers on 4 separate occasions. Her contributions to the Lady Cadets win weren’t limited to the defensive side of the ball, though, as she also hit the only successful three-point field goal for Hilltop. Taking advantage of her three trips to the free throw line as well, Funkhouser totaled 12 points by the end of the night.

Defensively as a unit, the Hilltop girls were able to limit a majority of the Tigers scoring to just two players. Andrea Weirauch led the travelers from Liberty Center with 23 points, nearly half of her team’s total. Scoring more than half of those points at the line, Weirauch was mostly held in check by the Cadet defense. Meanwhile, Peyton Spieth put up 12 points. No other Liberty Center player scored more than 5 points for the duration of the game.

The Cadet defensive performance had its flaws, though. Liberty Center shot 37% from the floor, an alarmingly high number. That rate is also significantly higher than Hilltop’s shooting percentage of 28%. Some of that differential comes from the extra seventeen shots the Lady Cadets attempted during the course of the evening, but that still doesn’t justify allowing a team to get that close to making 40% of their shots. That is normally a significantly difficult obstacle to overcome.

Hustle is a great way to surpass said obstacle, and that is precisely what the hometown Cadets did. It begins with rebounding, as Hilltop managed to win the battle of the boards by ten, 33 to 23. Getting to the free throw line also involves a great deal of hustle. Making as many extra points as the Tigers attempted, Hilltop shot with 73% accuracy from the line by going 24-33, compared to Liberty Center’s 63% after making just 15-24.

Of all the statistics associated with this game, the single most surprising one lies in the turnover margin. Hilltop, with a team comprised mostly of juniors and sophomores with quiet limited varsity experience heading into the current season, managed to limit their turnovers to 8. On the other hand, they were able to force Liberty Center into 20 possession-costing errors. Such savvy level of play was certainly not to be expected from the Lady Cadets this season, especially not in the first game of the season.

If they continue to value the ball so highly throughout the season, the girls from Hilltop will be a formidable opponent for all that cross their path.

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