Hill City boys pick up 10th win
By CONOR NICHOLL
HILL CITY - Hill City High School boys' basketball coach Keith Riley estimated he had watched Smith Center play 10 times. Riley knew the Redmen's strength came from using their athleticism, running in transition and scoring fast-break points. Hill City's focus was containing senior guards Zach Linn and Payton Buckmaster.
"That was the main thing we emphasized, was getting block outs and getting back on defense," Riley said.
Hill City forced Smith Center into a half-court game early, took a 15-point lead in the second quarter and held on for a 66-57 home victory. The Ringnecks moved to 10-7, while Smith Center dropped to 8-9.
"I thought we played really well at times," Riley said.
Entering the contest, Buckmaster averaged 17 points a contest, and Linn tacked on 15 a game. Hill City held Buckmaster without a point until 7 minutes, 25 seconds remained in the game. At the 4:55 mark in the first quarter, senior Solomon Wilson drove hard to the basket and picked up Buckmaster's second foul.
Buckmaster missed most of the first half and had just two shots at halftime. He finished with nine points.
"(Defense) was very important," said junior Shane Jones, who led Hill City with 28 points. "Deric (McKeever) did a really good job on him tonight."
Linn had a team-high 18, but didn't score until he made a trey in transition with 96 seconds left in the first half. By that point, Hill City led 28-15.
"When we all play together good, I know we can make something happen," Wilson said.
Hill City, especially Wilson, struggled with turnovers for most of the game. The Ringnecks finished with 20 turnovers, a rarity.
Wilson had just seven points as he played with his brother, Scott O'Hara, in attendance. O'Hara, the school record holder in the triple jump, also won a state title in basketball for Hill City. He lives in Colorado now.
"It was pretty emotional," Wilson said. "My brother won state here, so I wanted to make a good impression for him. But overall, we played pretty good. I just wanted to help my teammates out."