It was a wild finish to hard-fought battle. Hillsboro seemed to have the victory in hand late in the game. After Allen hit a huge three-point basket from the corner to give the Trojans a 39-37 lead with 1:20 to go, Moundridge quickly fouled five times to get the Trojans to the free-throw line.
Brett Weinbrenner made the first free-throw on a one-and-one with 22.3 seconds left, then missed the second one. Jesse Brown immediately tied up the Moundridge rebounder, giving possession back to the Trojans.
Evan Ollenburger was then quickly fouled, and made both ends of a one-and-one to give the Trojans a 42-37 lead with 19 seconds to play.
But Garrett Higgins gave Wildcat fans hope when he nailed a three with 10.5 seconds left to make the score 42-40. Christian Ratzlaff was fouled after the inbounds pass and went to the line for another one-and-one with 8.5 seconds to go.
This time the time the ball rimmed out for Hillsboro. Moundridge’s Colton Frazier rebounded and was fouled by Brown, who was trying to force a jump ball. At the other end of the court, Frazier made both free throws to tie the game with 6.9 seconds left and Wildcat fans roaring.
On the inbounds pass, Hillsboro had to call one timeout to avoid a five-second call. On the second attempt, Ollenburger got the ball into Weinbrenner who raced down court and made a great pass to Allen, who was flying along the baseline. The buzzer sounded as the ball dropped through the hoop, and Trojan fans and team celebrated an incredible win.
There was no doubt from the start that both teams were primed for this contest, which quickly turned into a defensive battle. Hillsboro slipped into the lead at 13-11 when Ratzlaff scored on a drive to the basket in the final three seconds of the first quarter.
In a rare burst of offense, the Wildcats scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to take a 35-28 with 5:50 to play. But Hillsboro didn’t wilt. Ratzlaff drained a three, then Weinbrenner completed a traditional three-point play to quickly close the gap to 35-34 at the 4:39 mark. The two teams managed to swap baskets to set up the fireworks of the final 1:20.
Allen and Ratzlaff tied for team scoring honors with 14 points each.
With the win—coach Darrel Knoll’s 450th at the Trojan helm—Hillsboro (19-3) advanced to the finals, where they will play either top-seeded Berean or Inman at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Hillsboro girls will face off against Moundridge at 6 p.m. for the title game of the girls’ bracket.