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Mercer boys’ basketball kept playing hard

April 17, 2020 by Brett LaBore

It may not have been the season they wanted — there were a number of twists and turns in the journey. And yet it was still a season with many positives for the Mercer boys’ basketball team.

The Tigers finished 10th in the Indianhead conference with a 5-18 overall record, 2-14 in conference.

“It was a struggle, definitely thought that we could win anywhere from 8-12 games,” coach Adam Miller said. “I thought like every year, games would be tight. We were competitive which was awesome.”

Top cat

Kobe Hiller, averaging 17.7 points per game, was named third team all-conference for the Indianhead. He averaged three rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.7 steals per game.

“He was a great jump shooter and could take the ball to the hole and was such a great defender,” Miller said.

He often led the Tigers in scoring and even scored 39 against Winter on Jan. 23.

To put the cherry on top of a memorable season, Hiller will participate in the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Division 5 All-Star Basketball game. As one of the coaches of the teams, Miller selected Hiller, who he gets to coach one last time. The game is set for June 20. 

“With me being the coach, I got to pick my guys,” Miller said. “Obviously not going to leave Kobe off that team. I’m super excited to coach him one last time.”

Classy seniors

Other seniors include Baylie Huybrecht, Joe Laudolff and Davin Peterson, who all showed so much respect to coach Miller and others.

“My seniors were so respectful and such a joy to coach,” Miller said. “(They) really worked hard and that’s something special to look back at.”

Huybrecht was a floor general. He often brought the ball down the court and averaged six points per game, 4.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.7 steals. His personal highlight might have been when he knocked down six 3-pointers in a game.

“Baylie throughout his career (has been the) guy who was my coach on the floor,” Miller said. 

Laudolff may not have been the biggest guy or splashiest scorer, but he was a smart player and good defender.

“Right there with Kobe as a great defender. He had a couple of blocks on guys 6’3 or taller,” Miller said. “He didn’t put in a lot of points for us, but was a great defender.” 

Peterson didn’t play right away, but throughout the course of the season provided another scoring option along with Hiller. Peterson averaged 7.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.

“Davin Peterson had some good games as well,” Miller said.

Deeper bench

A non-senior, Jacob Schmidt, started the season scoring and shooting a number of 3-pointers. Then he left the team. Ultimately he came back as voted on by the team and helped out the depth even more late in the season. He averaged 9.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 2.6 steals. 

“(He’s) such an athlete. He’s so quick and fast, so lanky, can shoot the ball and rebound,” Miller said.

Jordan Ahlborn was both a starter and top option off the bench over the course of the campaign. He averaged 3.8 points and five rebounds per game.

The Losh brothers — Devin and Ryan — didn’t join the team or play right away. When they stepped on the court for the first time, they provided coach Miller with some bigs who could rebound the ball and post up at times. Devin averaged 2.3 points and 2.6 rebounds. Ryan averaged 3.4 and 4.8 rebounds per game.

“Jake and the Losh boys, Jordan Ahlborn’s senior year this year, Josh Klopatek’s sophomore year this year — we have five guys that can play basketball,” Miller said. “We’ll see what the other guys can do (next season).”

There were a number of exciting games the Tigers played in. 

Fun games

It all started Nov. 26, 2019, when they defeated Lac Courte Oreilles to start 1-0. About two weeks later, the Tigers played a thrilling game against Bayfield, winning 72-68 in overtime on Dec. 10, 2019. It was their first conference win and gave them a record of 2-1.

“Ryan wasn’t playing in that game, Devin and Davin — three of basically our end-of-the season starters and the sixth man were not even in the game,” Miller said. “That was fun to see everybody step up and play Bayfield so well.”

After that positive start, wins became hard to come by. The Tigers went on an eight-game losing streak after that, including a three-game stretch where they could score no more than 27 points.

They rebounded for a 69-35 win over Winter on Jan. 23, their first in the year 2020. Another six-game losing streak followed until they pulled off one of their highlight wins.

Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, was the day the Tigers upset Drummond 41-39 in front of the home crowd. Drummond had an 8-8 conference record, proving it was a big win for the Tigers.

“That game we came out strong. Drummond came back and they ran out of time luckily and just putting everything together (was key),” Miller said. “Whether it’s basketball or life, trying to tell them life lessons of if you keep putting the work in, something good (will happen).”

On Feb. 17, Hiller scored 27 for his 1,000th point against White Lake in a 63-46 home victory. Hiller hasn’t been the feature scorer all his career, making the achievement that much special.

“It’s even greater (considering) the guys he’s playing behind and not getting a lot of shots his first three years,” Miller said. “It’s a great thing and all his teammates were happy.”

The season ended on March 3 against Hurley in regional play. The Tigers slowed the game down, but fell 56-16.

In a season that wasn’t conventional, these Tigers played with all their heart and represented the Mercer community in the best way possible.

Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]

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