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by Joel DeWitt
GLENWOOD CITY — As the Hilltopper boys’ basketball team cruises into the midway point of the 2021-22 season, they may finally be finding their stride. Two home games this week would prove to be fruitful as Glenwood City won both, including their first conference win, to improve their record to 3-8 (1-4 in conference).
The common theme on the week for the Hilltoppers would be their defensive efficiency. They would host Mondovi on January 13 and hold the Buffalos to 35% shooting from the field en route to their first conference victory on the season, 49-44.
The Hilltoppers would almost match that performance on January 15 when they would hold a Houston, MN squad to only 36% from the field. The Hilltoppers would lead most of the game on their way to a 55-44 home win on Saturday afternoon against the Hurricanes.
“Our program is focused on team defense based on pressure, effort, help side, and team rotation,” coach Patrick Olson commented on his team’s defensive performance.
Glenwood City hopes to continue their winning ways this week. They traveled to Durand on January 18 to play the conference leading Panthers. They will then host rival Boyceville on January 21. The Toppers then travel to Cadott January 24 for a nonconference tilt against the Hornets. All games start at 7:15 p.m.
The Hilltoppers would keep things close from the beginning against the Buffalos (5-7, 2-2). Trailing Mondovi 12-10 with seven minutes left in the first half, a put-in by Drew Olson on an inbound play would tie the score and spark a 12-4 run to end the half.
Big plays in that run included a three-point play by Owen Swenby to make the score 16-12. Elek Anderson would get a pass on the baseline from Olson and make the reverser layup to push the Topper lead to seven. Anderson would hit another shot on the baseline before Mitchell Bliese would hit a running jumper in the lane as time expired to put Glenwood City up 24-16.
The Hilltoppers would not be able to hold that lead for long. Mondovi would charge back and take a 34-33 lead with just over eight minutes left in the game. However, the Glenwood City squad would stay poised.
Brady McCarthy would hit an 18-foot jumper from the corner to knot the score at 42 apiece with 59 seconds remaining. McCarthy would be fouled on the next possession and hit a pair of free-throws to give his team the two-point lead. Free-throws down the stretch extended the lead to five points and gave the Hilltoppers the 49-44 conference victory.
“The boys played well,” mentioned Olson. “Our focus was taking care of the ball, limiting Dawson Rud and Jarod Falkner from penetrating, and finding our offensive flow.”
Elek Anderson would lead the way offensively for the Hilltoppers with 13 points. Olson followed up with nine points of his own. Olson and Owen Swenby notched ten rebounds apiece.
Looking to build on their first conference win of the year, the Hilltoppers hosted a winless Houston (0-10) team. Glenwood City would jump out to a quick 10-4 lead after Justin Moe hit a 15-foot shot from the right baseline with just under four minutes played.
However, the Hurricanes would keep things tight, in large part to their three-point shooting. The Hurricanes used the long range shot to take the lead at 18-20 when Houston hit their third three-pointer of the half.
However, the Hilltoppers would battle back. A 7-1 run to end the first half put Glenwood City up 25-21 at intermission. The run was highlighted by buckets from Moe, Olson, and Swenby.
Coming out in the second half, the Hilltoppers would control the flow for the remainder of the game. A short jumper by Bryce Wickman extended the Topper lead to 46-30 with 7:30 remaining in the game. From that point on Glenwood City would cruise and hold on for the 55-44 victory.
McCarthy and Olson would share scoring honors on the evening with 12 points apiece. Swenby would tally eight on the evening as the Hilltoppers improved to 3-8 on the season.