It’s that time of year again. You know this time. It’s late February and Iowa high school student athletes are waiting for the weather to break so they can start focusing on Spring activities. Golf Clubs are being dusted off. Track shoes are being cleaned. Soccer headers are being performed in living rooms to the dismay of, well soccer moms, through out the state.
With the way the weather has behaved lately, more waiting is all but a certainty. It doesn’t take a meteorologist to realize outdoor activities are not on the horizon.
That waiting game is for everyone except for Nathan Hill and his band of South Hamilton Hawks basketball artisans. For the Hawks from Jewell, February and the subsequent early March days mean it’s time to buckle up. For the past 3 seasons Hill and the gang have used February to finely tune what is already a well-oiled machine.
In 2017, the Hawks jumpstarted this run of excellence by going 19-2 in the regular season before cruising through districts and advancing to the state tournament on a 53-51 victory over a 5-loss East Marshall team. The Cinderella story appeared as though it would continue when the Hawks took a 6-point lead into halftime against reigning 2A Champion Western Christian. Ultimately the Hawks would be outscored 30-18 in the second half as Western got a 53-47 victory on the way to their 2nd consecutive state title.
One year later the Hawks would return a solid core minus 2017 leading scorer Collin Hill who moved on to play at Morningside College. South Hamilton would return Senior Marc Balderas, and all-area caliber point guard along with a trio of juniors who all started as 10th graders in Cole Berg, Logan Peters, and Connor Hill. The Hawks would blast their way through the 2017-18 regular season going 21-0 while rarely being challenged as only 6 of those 21 victories were even decided by single digit margins. A cakewalk through the district tournament would lead to a second meeting with East Marshall in the substate final but this time the Hawks had no intentions of letting it come down to the wire. Leading by 7 at the halftime break, the Hawks outscored the Trojans 23-10 in the second half to get the 52-32 victory and secure their 2nd consecutive state appearance. Hill’s crew was no longer happy just to be at Wells Fargo for their matchup with 1-loss Aplington-Parkersburg but ultimately the Falcons would outscore the Hawks 15-8 in the 4th to end the Hawks season in the 1st round for the second season with a 54-51 heartbreaking loss.
The Hawks enter the 2019 Iowa High School Class 2A state tournament sporting a 21-1 overall record and are coming off of a thorough dispatching in the Substate 2 title game Saturday in Mason City. The Hawks entered the game against the 12-11 New Hampton Chickasaws as heavy favorites but the underdog came out vicious in the 1st half. The Chickasaws early game plan of pounding the ball inside combined with the Hawks utter inability to hit from long range, led to a 13-11 lead for New Hampton after one period. Head Coach Nathan Hill on what he said to his team in that break.
The 2nd and 3rd quarters were a different story for the defending substate champs. While the 3-ball would abandon them all night long, they ended the afternoon 2 for 10 from long range, the Hawks would clamp down defensively while Connor Hill, Logan Peters, and Cole Berg shook loose to lead South Hamilton to an 11-point halftime lead, 28-17. The 3rd period only proved to bring more domination as South Hamilton removed any suspense, outscoring the Chickasaws 20-3 to take a 27-point lead into the 4th. The senior trifecta of Hill, Peters, and Berg would finish the game with a combined 52 points in the 63-31 substate title victory. Berg led the way with 25, on 11 of 20 shooting while going 3/4 at the foul line. Hill talked about how important his seniors were in getting scoring in a game that started off sloppy offensively.
After the game, the Hawks skipper explained how it was the defense that bailed out the Hawks early in a game that saw them shoot poorly, especially from the perimeter.
Now, the Hawks spend 9 days figuring out how to ensure themselves of multiple games at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Since the season started, the goal for the Hawks has been to play their way to the state tournament, but to a player, the Hawks will tell you that they’re not satisfied with just getting in. The goal is no less than a state title game appearance in 2019.
This is as well-rounded a team as the Hawks have had according to their coach. Any given night they’ve got 4 or 5 kids who can score in double digits. As a matter of fact 4 players do average more than 11 points this season. (Hill, Peters, Berg, and Junior Cade Balvanz) Defensively, the Hawks play a strict man-to-man defense that predicates itself on stopping the ball but also mixes in switches and helpside maneuvers effectively to limit teams to less than 50 points per game this season. On-the-ball defenders Quinton Grove and Connor Hill have been superb and give the Hawks multiple ways to attack other team’s top scoring threats.
It’ll be fun to see where the Hawks get seeded for the State Basketball Tournament that begins next week. Those pairings are due out later today and we’ll talk more South Hamilton Hawks basketball when it is determined who they will play and when.