Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 09 January 2007 18:00Hillsboro coach Darrel Knoll has long believed that nothing improves a team's game performance like plenty of focused practice time.
Based on a solid 55-40 win over Hoisington on Friday night, the Trojan boys apparently made good use of the holiday break to make up for lost preseason practice days because of this fall's success in football.
"I think we looked like we were in a little better shape tonight, and that helped us out," Knoll said. "We're still learning, but at least tonight we did it with some kind of emphasis. I thought we were just much more active, both offensively and defensively."
A bank-in 3-pointer by Spencer Brown about a minute into the contest signalled that the Trojans were physically and mentally prepared to improve on a tough 2-4 start to the season.
The shot gave Hillsboro a lead it would never relinquish.
After Hoisington responded with a basket at the 5:25 mark, the Trojans got a basket from Troy Frick followed by a steal, basket and bonus free throw from Lucas Hamm 24 seconds later to stake an 8-2 lead with 4:36 left in the period.
Leading 12-7 at the first break, Hillsboro slowly extend its lead as the game went on. With the score 18-13, Hamm created back-to-back three-point-play possibilities to fuel a decisive 11-0 surge midway through the period.
When Darren Enns capped the run with a nice move inside to rebound and score following a missed free throw by Frick, Hillsboro was up by 29-13. The Cardinals tossed in four of six free throws over the final two minutes to close the margin to 29-17 at intermission.
Hillsboro shot nearly 55 percent from floor (12-22) in the first half while holding Hoisington to 36 percent (5-14).
"I thought we played really hard tonight," Knoll said. "The first half-until the last couple of minutes-we did a really good job. We blocked off the boards well, we took good shots. It just looked like we played to win tonight. We had a little better spring in our step. I was really pleased."
The Trojans kept their focus into the second half. A pair of baskets by Frick on either side of a free throw by Brown gave Hillsboro a 34-17 lead in the first two minutes of the third quarter.
Shooting 7-for-11 for the period, the Trojans were in clear control of the game with a 45-26 lead at the final break. Frick scored eight points in the first four minutes of the quarter.
A basket by Brett McIntosh at the 6:54 mark of the fourth quarter gave Hillsboro its largest lead of the night, 47-26, before the Trojans finished with a 15-point margin.
For the game, Hillsboro shot 49 percent (22-45) from the field while limiting Hoisington to 42 percent. Hamm paced Hillsboro with 14 points; Frick was right behind him with 12 points.
"We did a good job of getting the ball inside to Lucas and he did a good job of finishing," Knoll said. "Darren had a couple of nice finishes, and Troy did a nice job.
"Aaron (Stepanek) came in and just made some great hustle plays," he added. "He got some good shots off the glass early and got us going. It was just a really good job by everyone tonight.
"We've still got a ways to go, but I think we're ready to compete pretty hard in the second half of the year."
Coming-The Trojans will take their 3-4 record to Ellinwood on Friday to take on the 1-5 Eagles.
--ext week, Hillsboro will join a traditionally tough eight-time field for the Trojan Classic as the seventh seed. Also competing are Thomas More Prep (8-0), Republic County (7-1), Hesston (6-1), Marion (5-2), Sunrise Academy (9-4), Wamego (3-3) and Riley County (2-5).
The Trojans begin play at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday against Republic County.