Comets Unite in Exciting Finish to Regular Season
The Foss cousins were difference makers in Hillcrest’s final game of the season. Mid-game heroics from Nick Foss were passed along to cousin Micah who scored the final field goal of the game and propelled the Comets over a top conference opponent in the Hancock Owls.
The Comets leapt to a strong start following the opening tip-off. After three series they held a 2-0 lead, thanks to a lay-in by Sander Frustol. Frustol is showing up in a big way over the final five games of his senior career. He is averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds in the last nine games. It was Frustol’s contributions away from the ball that directed Hillcrest to a 33-19 lead going into the half.
The Comets game planned to stop a top-ranked challenge by the Owls. Hancock consistently drives up the score with a disciplined approach at attacking the lane. With Frustol redirecting shots inside the paint, Hancock experienced great difficulty scoring around the rim, something they haven’t encountered in their 1900 points scored over their past 29 games.
Frustol stayed out of foul trouble throughout the night in large part to the perimeter defense by the Comets. Gabe Preston, Logan Disabella, Micah Foss, and Nick Foss fronted offensive strikes, forcing the Owls to take contested shots where Frustol and Thomas Zwiers were able to leap to grab rebounds. The pair grabbed 14 defensive rebounds on the night.
The Comet defense propelled their offensive strikes. Where the Owls targeted Frustol and Preston, the Comet relocated shooters. Disabella and Nick Foss were primary recipients. Disabella found two open threes on the night, and Foss knocked down four big shots beyond the arc. Foss led all scoring with 18 points on the night, a career game for the defensive specialist who is coming on as of late for the Comets.
The game turned in the third quarter as the Owls displayed sharp shooting outside the lane. The Owls pulled ahead by one on a deep three pointer with two minutes left. A few errant series by both teams saw Frustol take a deflected pass at the top of the key and dribble down to a foul in the paint with a minute thirty left on the clock. Frustol tied the game before the Owls came down and ran a few looping drives into the lane for a layup, going up one with a minute left on the clock. Head coach Gregg Preston reportedly responded to the drive with a comment that Micah needed to make his presence known in the final minutes of the game if the Comets would come out on top. That comment to the coaching staff was a prophetic call to Micah, whose final minute of the game proved pivotal for Hillcrest’s win.
Gabe Preston received the inbounds with a minute left, down one point. He brought the ball up on the right side, the defense shifting to Preston to stop any potential drive or screen-and-roll attempts. Micah Foss left the right side with an under-the-basket cut to the three point line. Preston passed the ball across the court to Foss, whose man was delayed following a Comet screen under the basket. The Owl defender closed out, reaching Foss as he was mid-shot. The ball hung in the air with the game on the line, the clock reading one minute when Foss’ feet hit the ground and the ball tickled the net. Hillcrest now held the lead, 59-57.
The Owls quickly pushed the ball up the court. They executed two failed attempts to drive into the lane for a jump shot. On their third attempt they passed the ball inside for a layup, where Micah Foss quickly stepped in to steal the pass, passing the ball to Preston as he executed two game-changing plays in a matter of five seconds in the final minute.
The Comets worked the ball around the perimeter on offense before Gabe Preston was fouled with 37 seconds left. After Preston’s two clutch free-throws the Comets held a 62-59 lead. The Owls called their final time out to setup a game winning shot after a pair of attempts to even the score beyond the arc. On their final series the shot from the left side didn’t fall. The rebound went to the Owls where they found Preston playing aggressive defense. A foul landed the Owls at the free throw line with seconds left on the clock. As the Comets lined up for the free throw they were thinking the Owls would make the first and purposely miss the second, but the preparation wasn’t necessary as the Owls missed the front end of the bonus. The ball bounced into Frustol’s hands, who held the ball through the final seconds to earn Hillcrest the victory.
The game didn’t change seedings for playoffs, but is sending Hillcrest into playoffs with a renewed vision for what their season could be in the coming month. Thanks to lock-down defense by the Comets, aided by a career shooting night for Nick Foss, and some last minute heroics by Micah Foss, Hillcrest ended their regular season with a 13-10 record. They will play New York Mills in the first round of playoffs on Thursday at New York Mills at 7pm.