URBANA — After losing nine players from last year’s Division D-II district runner-up team, Urbana High School 6-foot-6 senior post Zach Stillings didn’t know what to expect.
“I thought we’d be an average team,” Stillings said. “To have this kind season, this kind of record, it’s unbelievable.”
He never dreamed the Hillclimbers (17-1) would end Graham’s Central Buckeye Conference Mad River Division title run, or go down as one of the top teams in school history.
With a victory tonight against Indian Lake, they’ll complete their goal of finishing with a perfect 10-0 league record, and win 18 games for the first time since 1982 and only the second time since 1965.
“It’s awesome to think our team is making history,” Stillings said. “To score 1,000 points (as an individual) and leave that mark at the school, it’s unbelievable.”
Stillings has been a big part of the team’s success this season. He’s leading the CBC in scoring at 19.9 points per game. He’s shooting 59.6 percent from the field, despite getting double and triple-teamed throughout the game.
“He just gets beat on and held every night and keeps coming back for more,” said Urbana coach Jeremy Dixon. “I don’t think he’s missed a practice for injury in four years. He’s gotten better every year.”
Defensively, he’s also averaging 9.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
“He really helps our team defense, being a presence inside,” Dixon said. “He hasn’t blocked as many shots this year, but he’s made our defense better.”
Stillings said the Hillclimbers started out as an average team, but once they accepted their roles on the team, that’s when the they blossomed. After losing to Tecumseh on Dec. 13, they’ve won 15 straight — the longest streak since ’65.
Dixon said the Hillclimbers’ guard play has helped Stillings succeed. Junior Joe Wright is leading the CBC with 5.6 assists per game, while junior Connor Johns is averaging 3.8 assists per contest. Both are donig a great job facilitating the offense for Stillings and brothers Karl and Tristan Singer.
“He’s being successful because our guards are doing a great job of being really unselfish,” Dixon said.
The double-teams, Stillings said, are something he’s gotten used to. The Hillclimbers’ ability to hit 3-pointers — they’re shooting 33.8 percent from behind the arc — has opened up things for Stillings on the block.
“Once those guys start making shots, they’ve got to leave me open,” Stillings said. “It’s hard to guard two guys at once.”
They’ll enter the D-II sectional tournament in Springfield next week as the No. 1 seed. No matter what happens, Stillings’ senior year is something he’ll never forget.
“I’m really excited about it,” said Stillings, who hopes to play basketball in college. “I’m speechless. It’s a good way to end my senior year.”
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