TROY MILLS — It’s a sweet mullet. It really, truly is a sweet, sweet mullet.
“Been growing the back since the quarantine. Haven’t cut the back,” North Linn’s Tate Haughenbury said Thursday night, after his top-ranked team beat Hillcrest Academy, 63-30, in a Class 1A district semifinal. “It’s a good talking piece for a lot of people.”
Significant game comes with the hair for this kid. The 6-foot-4 sophomore scored a game-high 19 points, hauled in six rebounds and had as many blocked shots as the Lynx improved to 23-0.
Interior play was North Linn’s biggest question going into this season, but Mr. Mullet, make that Mr. Haughenbury, has answered it.
From one of the last guys off the bench for last year’s 2A state runner-up to averaging 16 points a game, that’s called huge development.
“At the end of last year, I knew we were going to be short-handed without Austin Miller,” Haughenbury said, of North Linn’s first-team all-state forward of a year ago. “So I knew I had to step up and play more this year. That was one of my goals this year. In the offseason, we played a lot of AAU basketball, and I did a lot of work in the gym over the summer. Not as much as we would have liked because of COVID, but it is what it is.”
Coach Mike Hilmer has been impressed by Haughenbury’s huge step forward.
“Just phenomenal,” Hilmer said. “Reminds me of Austin Miller, only it came a year earlier than it did for Austin. He’s still a baby in his body right now, and he’s really going to be a force the next couple of years. I will say, though, that he is also a kid that if you ask him to work on something, he works on it.
“His development is one of those things where you have a kid that wants to get better, he listens and does what you tell him to do. He doesn’t say if he agrees or disagrees, he just does it. He is proof that if you work hard, you are going to get better.”
Hillcrest Academy (13-8) hung around the first half, trailing at the break, 27-14, but North Linn’s constant full-court pressure, trapping and double-teaming seemed to wear out the Ravens. The game completely got away in the third quarter, with North Linn taking a 48-24 lead.
Hillcrest Academy finished with 25 turnovers and had only one scorer in double figures: guard Eli Ours with 11.
“What you said about not being able to replicate that in practice is absolutely true,” Hillcrest Academy Coach Dwight Gingerich said. “We talked about that, talked about we were going to get trapped, we were going to get doubled, and you’ve got to be ready to have guys coming back to help. We did it a few times, but we didn’t do it enough ... Boom, boom, boom. We had trouble getting the ball down the floor.”
Sophomore guard Ben Wheatley added 14 points for North Linn, which draws Alburnett, in a district final next week. Dylan Kurt had 12 points and Austin Hilmer just five, though he did dish out 10 assists.
Coach Hilmer said his team made tweaks on offense and defense that helped the second-half crushing. The offensive tweak was to get the basketball inside more.
“Just a little adjustment on offense, a little adjustment on defense,” he said. “One of the things I’m so impressed with about these guys is, despite having just one senior on he team, they are able to hear what you say and make the adjustment, which has been very important in a lot of games this year.”
HILLCREST ACADEMY (30): John Hughes 3-9 0-0 6, Aaron Hershberger 0-1 1-2 1, Grant Bender 0-8 0-0 0, Luke Schrock 4-12 0-0 8, Eli Ours 5-6 12 11, Aiden Krabill 1-6 0-0 2, Will Kolck 1-2 0-0 2, Aiden Yoder 0-0 0-0 0, Josiah Beachy 0-0 0-0 0, Alex Niemeyer 0-0 0-0 0, Jace Rempel 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-44 2-4 30.
NORTH LINN (63): Cade Haughenbury 2-2 0-0 4, Dylan Kurt 5-16 1-1 12, Tate Haughenbury 7-11 5-7 19, Ben Wheatley 6-10 0-0 14, Austin Hilmer 1-8 2-3 5, Kaleb Kurt 3-4 0-0 6, Gunner Vanourney 1-3 0-0 3, Tate Collum 0-1 0-0 0, Breckyn Betenbender 0-0 0-0 0, Logan Ward 0-0 0-0 0, Trey McEnany 0-0 0-0 0, Ty Pflughaupt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-55 8-11 63.
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Halftime — North Linn 27, Hillcrest Academy 14. 3-point goals — Hillcrest Academy 0-7 (Bender 0-4, Schrock 0-3), North Linn 5-25 (D. Kurt 1-12, Wheatley 2-5, Hilmer 1-4, Vanourney 1-3, Collum 0-1). Rebounds — Hillcrest Academy 34 (Hershberger 8), North Linn 27 (Hilmer 7). Turnovers — Hillcrest Academy 25, North Linn 7.
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