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HITTING GOALS: Hulbert's Jordan Hill reflects on season, winning streak

Mar. 11—When the Hulbert Riders got eliminated from the Regional Tournament by Panama, it was 9 p.m. by the time they got back to town. Still, several players stayed until 11 p.m., getting shots up.

HHS head coach Jordan Hill was impressed that his players were still working on their game, despite being eliminated.

"Those boys are just working their tails off and are eager to get back out there next year. I told them to remember this and to not want this feeling next season this early," Hill said.

HHS' season ended earlier than expected, but nevertheless, Hill thought the Riders hit some goals this season. After starting the season on a slow note, the Riders picked up after winter break to finish with a 15-9 overall record.

Through winter break, the Riders were still hovering around .500 and were waiting for some injuries to clear up. During the early season, Adam Hinkle went down with an injury that kept him out for about a month. The Riders were also banged up with some other little injuries.

Although not everyone was at 100%, the Riders were able to keep themselves afloat.

"It was good for our boys to understand we have to go to battle with who we have," Hill said. "That is all that matters, is the 'next guy up' mentality; we are going battle for our brother next to us. We didn't let the start of the season define things, and I think that is what I am most proud of."

Once the Riders were healthy, everything started to click. To end the season, the Riders won eight in a row — a program record.

"That was huge for our program. We got hot at the end, but couldn't stay hot. Overall I was proud and thankful for the season we had," Hill said.

Senior leaders

Throughout the season, the Riders' senior class played important roles. Hinkle, R.J. Clark, Trevor Mullins and Logan Bilby all played key roles this season.

"We had some seniors who led us well, not only on the court but off the court," Hill said. "These seniors had a good career under our coaching staff. They impacted every game we played in."

While Hinkle was injured for most of the start of the season, when he came back, he was one of the key scorers for the Riders. Hinkle's strong career earned him a handful of scholarship offers. Eventually, Hinkle settled on Southwest Christian University.

"I felt bad for him because he was riddled with injuries, but he still worked his tail off every day; he didn't quit on his dream," Hill said. "That set the foundation for him and where that can get him. For him, his hard work has earned him a college scholarship. He continues to keep working hard and takes care of his body well."

While Hinkle and the other seniors played multiple years in HHS uniforms, this year was Clark's only season with the Riders. But Clark played a key role throughout the season as a physical presence for the Riders.

Clark was crucial in an important win late in the season. Facing off against Gore, the Riders found themselves down by double digits early. But the Riders chipped away at the lead until they were able to make it a two-possession game. From there, Clark was key for the Riders, crashing the boards, getting rebounds and picking up fouls. Clark hit some free throws that were key in pushing the game to overtime. Once in overtime, the Riders were able to walk away with the win.

"Any kid that comes into a program in his only year, most would have a mentality of being a starter, but R.J. knew his role when he came in," Hill said. "He had a great head on his shoulders and a great support system. His aggression and physicality were all huge parts of his game that helped us out a lot."

While the Riders are losing a strong senior class, Hill is confident in the group that will take over next season. The Riders are expecting a strong set of underclassmen to step up with three seniors: Tyler Simpson, Braxton Foster and Kaiden Thompson.

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