Article courtesy Craig Adkins and the Hamilton County Reporter.
By CRAIG ADKINS
In what is always an outright battle on the hardwood, the Eagles and Millers didn’t disappoint at all in the second game of the girls/boys varsity doubleheader on Friday night.
It wouldn’t be easy, but the Class 4A No. 6 Zionsville Eagles escaped The Mill with a narrow 59-57 conference win.
The visiting Eagles started off on a 5-0 run, but the Millers put a stop to that and found a groove right away on the offensive end of the court.
Senior Xavier Hines led the initial charge, finding his sweet spot on the right wing, making all three of his attempts from downtown, jump-starting the Millers out to an 11-3 lead with 2:15 left in the first, forcing Zionsville to burn their first timeout.
“I thought Xavier hit some huge threes, got us off to a great start and had a great fourth quarter for us. He made five three’s against a tough defense,” said Noblesville head coach Brian McCauley on senior Xavier Hines’ play on Friday.
Jordan Schmidt extended the lead to 14-5 and Eagan Keever-Hill nailed another buzzer-beater at the top of the key for a 17-9 Miller lead after one quarter.
The Millers kept it rolling to start the second when Hines converted a behind-the-back pass to Zack Johnson and the lefty drove the baseline for the layup. Alex Hunt gave the Millers their largest lead of the night at 21-9.
Zionsville found a way to dig out of that 12-point hole and they did it quick.
Hogan Orbaugh started with swishing a pair from the charity stripe. The next possession, Nathan Childress took a pass from Anthony Scales and dunked it to cut the deficit to eight at 21-13.
Purdue signee Isaiah Thompson made his first three and then Brandon Vernon his first and just like that, the Miller lead shrunk to 21-19 in a matter of mental mistakes and moments the Millers wish they could get back.
“That little run right there got them back and they went on a 10-0 run and then I think I called a timeout. That stretch right there was a crucial step for us,” said McCauley on giving up a 10-0 run that let the Eagles back into the game.
“We had control of the game. We had control of the ball. And, some poor decisions and that cost us 10 points,” continued McCauley on the Millers’ lapse that led to Zionsville getting themselves back into the game.
The Eagles kept at it trailing by four, 23-19, from a Hunt 15-foot jumper from the left elbow.
Another three from Thompson, this time from the volleyball line, cut it to 23-22.
The lead would change hands a few times before halftime.
Zionsville got its first lead of the game on Vernon’s second made three-pointer for a 25-23 edge. On the other end, Hunt got fouled and converted the and-1 to get Noblesville back up 26-25.
Vernon made his third trey of the second quarter, giving the Eagles a 28-26.
Thompson scored the final four points of the half for the Eagles, more importantly, banked in a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Zionsville a 32-28 halftime edge.
Thompson sent the Eagles’ bench into a frenzy to start the third as he made a three from the right corner as he fell out of bounds.
Orbaugh scored six of the 10 points in the third and Zionsville kept itself distanced just enough in the third, opening up leads as big as seven, but not really pulling away, leading 42-35 after three.
Hines started the fourth off with a three to make it 42-38, but five straight from another Thompson trey and two by Scales and the margin was back to nine at 47-38.
The Millers cut it to four a couple of times in the fourth. In the final minute, the Millers made it more interesting than the Eagles were hoping.
Trailing by seven, Hines knocked down another three-pointer and then swishing two free throws to cut the lead down to 54-52.
It became free throws that would decide the game from there. The Eagles would convert 5-of 6 from the foul line to escape with a 59-57 road conference win.
“I thought all and all, we did a lot of great things and had a lot of great contributions,” McCauley said on his team’s overall effort.
The Millers (7-6, 0-3 HCC) hit the road on January 12 to face a tough Fort Wayne Northrop (9-3) squad. The Bruins blew out Fort Wayne North on Friday, 105-50.
Noblesville was led by Xavier Hines’ team-high 21 points and five assists, making five three-pointers. Zack Johnson and Alex Hunt each finished with 12 points, while Eagan Keever-Hill added nine.