Hillsboro knocks of top-seeded Sterling to reach sub-state finals

Maddie Duerksen shoots for three in front of the Sterling bench during the first quarter.
Maddie Duerksen shoots for three in front of the Sterling bench during the first quarter.
Playing with grit and a focused determination, the Hillsboro girls knocked off Sterling 68-59 Thursday night at the Class 2A sub-state finals to earn the right to play for a fifth consecutive state tournament berth on Saturday night.

The Trojans, seeded fifth in the toughest sub-state in 2A, had to get past top-seeded Sterling, ranked third in the state, to reach the finals. The two teams split their first two meetings this season, with both teams winning on their opponent’s home floor.

Playing now on a loud but neutral court at Berean, the Trojans successfully launched five three-point shots — two each by Addie Lackey and Maddie Duerksen and one by Danae Bina and — to post a 21-14 lead as the first quarter ended.

Sterling pulled to within 24-20 at the 5:46 mark of the second quarter, but after Alex Ratzlaff hit one of two free throws, Lackey scored eight unanswered points to vault the Trojans to a 33-20 lead. By halftime, Hillsboro held a semi-comfortable lead at 37-25.

The Black Bears made an early run at Hillsboro as the third quarter began by outscoring the Trojans 9-2 through the first three minutes. But Lackey stepped up again, this time with a pair of baskets to break Sterling’s momentum.

With Sterling teetering on the edge of possibility, Courtney Troyer scored in the paint and Lackey sank all three free-throws after she was fouled on a shot behind the arc for a 50-37 lead that held firm until the end of the quarter.

Addie Lackey ties up Sterling's Emma Lambert during a rebound scramble under the Trojan basket late in the first half.
Addie Lackey ties up Sterling's Emma Lambert during a rebound scramble under the Trojan basket late in the first half.
Sterling scored five points in the first 55 seconds of the fourth quarter, but didn’t score again until Kylah Comley managed a basket with 4:47 left. At that point, the Trojans still led 58-43 and it was mostly matter of running out the clock.

Tension built when Lackey fouled out with 2:34 to play, but the Trojans still held a 15-point lead at 61-46. The nine-point final margin was due largely to some battle-weary free-throw shooting over the final 1:47. Hillsboro made only four of 12 charities, but that was still good enough to keep the Black Bears at bay.

Lackey finished with a game high 28 points. Ratzlaff tossed in 18 and Bina 10 as the Trojans improved to 17-5 for the year. Sterling’s outstanding season ended at 19-3.

The Trojans will play No. 2 seed Moundridge (20-2) at 6 p.m. Saturday.

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