GREEN LIGHT: Hawks hope the arc is their friend again vs Cascade

JEWELL – In 24 games and somewhere in the vicinity of 700 minutes of court time this winter, Trevor Ullestad has never had to stop and ask himself the dreaded question: Should I have taken that shot?

That’s the beauty of playing in an up-tempo, player-friendly system where the light is always green. It’s carried South Hamilton farther than it’s been in 23 years.

“When we shoot we’re not worried about getting in trouble,” Ullestad, a senior, said of an offense that generates 67.5 points per game. “(Head coach B.J. Terrones) just wants us to take good shots and if we’re open and it’s a good look, yeah, he wants us to shoot it. As long as we have good rebounding position it’s not a bad shot.”

South Hamilton (21-3) rolls into this week’s Class 2A state basketball tournament without a loss in 59 days and an offense that could give opposing coaches ulcers. The Hawks run whenever possible, and give them even an inch outside of the 3-point arc and they’re going to try to take a mile.

That’s what sixth-ranked Cascade (21-3) will be forced to deal with tonight when it meets South Hamilton at center court for an 8:15 p.m. quarterfinal tip-off at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

The Hawks – winners of 14 consecutive games and making their first state-tournament appearance since 1991 – enter the Elite Eight with a class-leading 185 3-point makes.

“We just have so many threats that can make the 3s. It’s always been an element that we’ve had,” Ross Enderson, another senior sharpshooter who has canned 17 treys this season, said. “It’s tough to guard everyone.”

Ullestad’s 76 triples put him at the head of the 2A class, one clear of Albia’s Matt Baker. Freshman Collin Hill is sixth with 49 3s and senior Matt Hislop ranks 11th with 38.

Hill is one of the very few freshmen ever to lead his state-bound team in scoring; he puts up 16.8 points per outing. Ullestad isn’t far behind at 13.5.

“We got here by having shooters and by having our (big guys) do work on defense and on the offensive glass,” Hislop, who averages 14 points and 2.8 rebounds per game, said. “It’s to the point where it got us here and we have to know that’s our ticket. We have to keep punching away at it.”

Enter Cascade – the antithesis of South Hamilton.

The Cougars have taken 225 fewer 3-point shots (525-300) than South Hamilton, and they have no intention of trying to beat the Hawks in a track meet.

Cascade limits its opponents to just 39.3 points per game – the fewest in the 2A field – by utilized a ball-control offense and disciplined defense.

In other words, something has to give.

“They take a lot of pride in their defense and they take a lot of pride in keeping teams under 45 points,” Terrones said.

Cascade will attempt to lull the Hawks to sleep with, most likely, a match-up 2-3 zone that has become a calling card under veteran head coach Al Marshall. While that may seem like a death sentence against a 3-point shooting team, Terrones says things won’t come easy to his club.

“I know that over the past 10 years they’ve really embraced the 2-3 zone, but I also know they’ll adjust it depending on who they play,” he said. “The nice thing about our team is we have so many different components that it’s difficult to match up. If we do a good job and stay within our offensive scheme, I think we can be successful.”

Stopping Cascade’s inside-outside tandem of Devin Green and Haris Takes will be just as important as lighting it up from downtown. Takes, a three-year starter and the only one to return at the onset of the season back in November, averages 18.1 points a contest while Green – a 6-foot-6 sophomore – pours in 13.9.

The assignment of containing Green will fall on the shoulders of senior forwards Andrew Wintermote and Zach Puls. Wintermote rubbed elbows with Fort Dodge St. Edmond all-state center Robbie Burke throughout the substate battle, so he’s up to speed with what it will take to be successful.

“We know that it’s going to be a pretty physical game. We have to be pretty aggressive to stay competitive,” the 6-5 Wintermote, who averages 9.3 points and 8 rebounds a night, said.