Hill torches Knights out of super sectional
By Matt Nestor
DEKALB, Ill.—The Auburn Knights were not going to let their season end with a whimper in their super sectional matchup with Glenbard East Tuesday, March 15.
Auburn made one final run. Senior Anthony Strickland hit three straight 3-point shots and the Knights had cut what had once been a 16-point deficit down to 4 in the final minutes.
Down 5, Fred Van Vleet drove to the basket and lifted up a shot. But Glenbard star Jon Hill came over for a controversial block that was nearly a goaltending call.
Hill corralled the ball, and hit two free throws, a 4-point swing and the last gasp for a tired Auburn team as the Knights fell to Glenbard East 63-51 in their IHSA Class 4A Super Sectional matchup.
“They were getting close and I felt I had to do something,” Hill said of his game-changing block. “I heard they were calling for a goaltending, I don’t know if it was or not. It was just the spur of the moment, and a good defensive play.”
While the play of the game may have gone to Hill for his block, it was the senior’s offense that gave Auburn fits all night. Hill was 10-16 from the field and 10-10 from the free-throw line for 32 points.
“If coach calls plays for me, I’m just trying to do my best to execute,” he said. “That all goes to my teammates for just trusting me, and my coach for letting me go out there and run some plays.”
Auburn Head Coach Bryan Ott said Hill proved why he is going to Illinois State University to play basketball in the fall. He said that unusual defensive breakdowns from his team does not help when facing a player like Hill.
“He’s a great player,” Ott said. “We thought we could guard him. In the first half in particular, he really got going on us when we didn’t get much help from the wings. I think we failed at one thing that we’ve excelled at all year long. We did not show early enough and solid enough help.”
Another key for Glenbard was their defense on Van Vleet. While Strickland was able to hit four 3s on his way to 21 points, the Rams stymied Van Vleet, holding the junior to a 3-16 night shooting.
“I wasn’t frustrated at all,” Van Vleet said. “They were playing good defense. I didn’t get the calls I wanted. The ball didn’t drop the way I wanted.”
A hot-shooting first half allowed the Rams to jump out to a 9-point halftime lead. Glenbard shot 62.5 percent from the field, bolstered by five offensive rebounds on only nine missed shots.
In all, Glenbard outrebounded Auburn 32-19, with seven each from Hill, Kevin Priebe and Zach Miller, who had six rebounds in the first half.
“Coach always says that me and Tyree (York) might be little guys, but just get in the fight,” Miller said. “If the ball was loose, we were just trying to use quick hands. It’s a credit to boxing out. They held their guys off pretty well. I saw that ball loose. We said that we are not going to regret anything, so I wanted to get every ball that I could possibly get.”
The season ends for Auburn with 26 total wins. And while that won’t lessen the sting of a tough loss, Ott said he was happy with the way his team battled after falling into an early hole.
“I’m very proud of my basketball team,” he said. “I thought we showed tremendous character in the second half adjusting to the mistakes we made in the first half. We gave ourselves lots of opportunities.”
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