Worth the wait: Hawks clinch first unified HOIC title since 2001

JEWELL – Special occasions call for special attires and Matt Hislop was certainly stylish as he prepared to face Roland-Story last night on Coach Jim Marsh Court.

Sporting a vest and bow tie prior to the game, Hislop went out and showed off his flare on the hardwood in the Hawks’ come-from-behind 70-58 victory over their biggest Heart of Iowa Conference rival.

South Hamilton’s 10th consecutive victory assured the club of at least a share of the conference title – its first in a unified HOIC since 2001. The Hawks can keep the hardware all to themselves with a win over North Polk tonight.

“We want it all to ourselves,” Hislop, back in his vest and bow tie, said after pouring in 16 points. “When we were growing up we saw guys like Brent Johnson and Lee Knickerbocker win (Small School) conference championships, so this is all we wanted and all we’ve strived for. It’s great.”

It took a great effort over the final 5:20 to get South Hamilton (17-3, 15-2 HOIC) a piece of the gold. Roland-Story (11-8, 11-6 HOIC) led throughout most of the game and held a 48-45 edge when – seemingly out of nowhere – the Hawks began to soar.

A pair of Hislop free throws followed by a transition 3 from the right wing by Collin Hill ignited a 25-10 spurt that allowed South Hamilton to take its starters off the floor to a thunderous ovation in the final minute.

Defense and timely long-range bombs keyed the run. South Hamilton turned up the pressure and generated several steals with traps near mid-court that translated into quick buckets.

“The nice thing about our press is it does generally ware teams down,” South Hamilton head coach B.J. Terrones said. “By the time the fourth quarter comes it’s really hard to break that and our players did a real nice job trapping out of that press in the last six minutes. That really was the key to getting things going.”

Zach Puls scored a pair of baskets during the final run and Trevor Ullestad provided the dagger – a clutch 3 from the left corner off a transition cross-court whip pass by Hislop to put South Hamilton in front 64-55 with 1:55 remaining.

Hislop credited the large crowd – the student section sported giant cardboard heads of their favorite players – with the late-game turnaround.

“It’s the home crowd. It really is,” he said. “We hit one shot and then everyone starts yelling, and we feed off it. I’m getting tingles just thinking about it.”

Hill – again it must be mentioned that he’s just a freshman – led the Hawks with 20 points. Ullestad finished with 13 and Andrew Wintermote contributed nine points and nine rebounds.

South Hamilton was money at the free throw line, knocking down 13 of 15 shots.

Adam Shorkey led Roland-Story with 22 points, 16 coming in the first half to help his team build a 29-20 advantage. Zach Hovick finished with 19.

The Norsemen led 44-38 after three quarters and then were outscored 32-14 the remainder of the way.

“We’ve been doing this for a while now. We start slow and let teams feel good and then we come back and crush their hopes,” Hislop said.