State in sight: Hawks glide by R-S, in first substate since 2007

BOONE – Trevor Ullestad had a fairly vital role on the South Hamilton boys’ basketball team the last time it made an appearance in the substate. Seriously, what’s more important than making sure the players are hydrated?

A water boy when the Hawks last reached this stage in 2007, the senior shooting guard won’t be fetching drinks on Saturday when South Hamilton plays for a spot in the Class 2A state tournament against Fort Dodge St. Edmond in Webster City. The Hawks advanced to the oh-so important round here last night with a District 4 championship performance against Heart of Iowa Conference rival Roland-Story, 55-43.

“Yep, I was sitting on the bench giving out water and it was right here … the last time we won districts was right here in this gym,” Ullestad said after he buried three 3-pointers, scored 14 points and collected three steals inside the Boone High School gymnasium. “We’re just taking it one game at a time. We’ll just write up this win on the board … we got 20 (last night) and now we’ll go for 21.”

South Hamilton (20-3) led wire-to-wire and earned its 13th consecutive victory. Matt Hislop canned the first shot of the game – a triple from the top of the key – and Roland-Story (14-9) was never able to catch up en route to its third loss to the Hawks this winter.

The Hawks led by as many as 16 points late in the first half, but the Norsemen continued to apply the defensive pressure and forced South Hamilton to sweat it out down the stretch. Hislop – a senior who scored eight points and doled out six assists – and Ullestad combined to make 5 of 6 free throws over the final 52 seconds to assure their team of the substate berth.

“This was obviously pretty hard,” Ullestad said. “We knew Roland-Story was going to play us tough and we had a lot of turnovers, but we came through. They were just over-playing everything and we knew it was going to happen. We didn’t handle it very well for a while, but we were able to come through down the stretch.”

Freshman dynamo Collin Hill was a big reason – OK, he was the biggest reason – why the Hawks were able to forge on. He joined Ullestad with three 3s and poured in a team-high 17 points.

“He’s incredible and he doesn’t play like a freshman,” Ullestad said of Hill. “If he’s open we’re definitely going to give him the ball. He’s clutch.”

It was Hill’s calm demeanor that played a pivotal role. A 9-0 Roland-Story run midway through the third quarter trimmed South Hamilton’s lead to 36-32, but Hill quickly quieted the Norsemen faithful with a 3 from the wing, and a minute later Ullestad added another bomb from the corner to extend the Hawks’ lead back to 10, 44-34, after three quarters.

“These seniors have really helped me and I just followed them,” Hill said. “It always feels good to make those shots and some nights it’s Trevor or Matt. Fortunately (last night) it was me and they found me.”

Zach Puls pitched in eight points off the bench for the Hawks, and Andrew Wintermote added six points and a whopping 15 rebounds.

Wintermote was also the key to the Hawks’ 1-3-1 zone that befuddled the Norsemen throughout the contest. The 6-foot-4 senior played at the top of the zone and limited Roland-Story’s ability to get clean looks from the outside or penetrate the lane.

“We’ve been working on that (zone) over the course of the last three or four weeks knowing that in tournament time we had to have another look against some of these teams,” South Hamilton head coach B.J. Terrones said. “I really like Drew at the top of that. We have the personnel that can really stretch the floor in that halfcourt.”

Roland-Story’s Ben Clark led all scorers with 18 points. Zach Hovick added 11.

Saturday’s substate will be a rematch of a December game won by St. Edmond, 57-53.