Hill, Branson pick up Holiday Hoops win

University of Arkansas' 7-0, 252-pound basketball signee now set to face 7-2 Florida prospect Friday night at 8 p.m. at Bud Walton Arena.

University of Arkansas signee Steven Hill got just enough done for his team before fouling out Thursday night to get a chance to pick on somebody his own size on Friday.

Hill, a 7-0, 252-pound Nike All-American, had 14 points, 10 rebounds and 7 blocks, to lead his team to a 60-53 win over Fayetteville in the opening round of the Holiday Hoops basketball tournament at Bud Walton Arena.

Hill, averaging 20 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks through his team's 3-0 start, did so with Razorback head coach Stan Heath among those in the crowd, but wasn't pleased with his effort.

"I'm glad it's over, that's all I got to say," Hill said afterwards. "I am so proud of my teammates. I felt like I let them down because I did not have my best game on tonight, but the team stepped up so well. I couldn't be more proud of them."

Hill and Branson (3-0) advanced to play Jacksonville (Fla.) Arlington Country Day tonight at 8 p.m. in a matchup that will pit the 7-0 Hill against 7-2 sophomore Jason Bennett.

"We have played some people in our area that play hard, but they don't have any size," Branson first-year head coach Randy Bishop said. "…In this tournament, you are going to be tested. That's what really our whole team needs and Steven needs to be able to play on the next level. He needs to get in there and play big kids."

That game will follow the other winners' bracket final featuring Midwest City (Okla.) and Houston Heritage Christian, who were both runaway winners in opening round games on Thursday.

The two Friday night winners will then play Saturday at 4:30 p.m. for the championship, the last of four games beginning at noon on that day.

Hill, who had 32 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks in a win on Tuesday, has put on an extra 30 pounds since his AAU season ended and it is clear he is still getting used to it.

"A little bit," Hill said. "For some reason, I couldn't catch my breath and run the floor very well."

"It's hard," Bishop said of the extra weight. "He wanted to come out a couple of times just to get a break, but in that kind of battle, it's kind of tough to do. At the next level, he'll have some subs, but for us to be able to win we want him to be in good shape and be able to go at it for a good four quarters."

Hill sit out a little over three minutes just into the second half when he injured his ankle while colliding with a Fayetteville player. He got it taped up and got back in.

"The ankle's not bad," Hill said. "I just kind of landed on it wrong. It's a little swollen, but it's not bad. I'll be ready to go tomorrow."

Hill scored six points soon after he returned, including taking one of the few entry passes his jump-shooting team made and throwing it down while being fouled.

"We had a nice spurt there in the third quarter (actually the games are played in halves) where we ran the motion offense and got him the ball," Bishop said.

The game actually featured three future Razorbacks in Hill, Arkansas baseball signee Ben Tschepikow and fellow FHS standout Cedric Logan, who said he was firmly committed to sign with the Razorback football team in Feb.

Logan did not score, but used his quickness to grab 10 rebounds while Tschepikow tested a bad ankle and scored a bucket, but was only able to play just three minutes before having to leave.

It was a 65-point turnaround from when the two teams played last season, a game that Fayetteville won 91-43 when it had Hill's future Razorback teammate Ronnie Brewer.

"I'm excited that he wasn't on the team this year," Hill said. "This year we've really come back as a team. I'm looking forward to playing with him next year."

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Thursday's Results:

Heritage Christian 87, Texarkana 55

Midwest City 71, Springdale 37

Branson 60, Fayetteville 53

Arlington Country Day 64, Rogers 45

Friday's Games

Texarkana vs. Springdale, 3:30 p.m.

Rogers vs. Fayetteville, 5 p.m.

Heritage Christian vs. Midwest City, 6:30 p.m.

Branson vs. Arlington Country Day, 8 p.m.

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