The girls of Hillsboro High School first ventured to the state tournament in 1979. They had nearly qualified the previous season, losing in the sub-state finals. The 1978 squad ended the year with a mark of 14-9.
The 1979 season brought good reason for optimism. Coached by first-year boss Leland Albrecht, many of the players from the previous campaign were returning. Team members included Kelly Laubhan, Sandy Funk, Michelle Helmer, Bev Just, Shelly Helmer, Sherri Enns, Lynn Isaac, Leann Funk, Marlene Funk, Debbie Ratzlaff, Carla Calam and Gayle Klassen.
Hillsboro began the season with two-straight wins (Berean Academy and Remington) before suffering its first defeat at the hands of Fairfield, 71-51. Carla Calam led the Trojans when she netted 23 points but she was no match for Fairfield star Edie Clouse, who blistered the nets for 38 tallies.
Following the loss, Hillsboro blasted Halstead, 72-49. On this night, the game belonged to Calam, as the Hillsboro star tossed in 37 points.
Hillsboro entered the Christmas holidays with a record of 3-1 and stood tied for second in the Mid-Kansas League, just one game behind the undefeated Moundridge Wildcats.
The team got a stern test immediately after the holiday break. The Trojans opened the January slate with Moundridge, who at the time was ranked No. 2 team in Class 2A. Hillsboro could not tame the Wildcats and lost, 47-41.
From that defeat, the Trojans would run off seven consecutive wins before Fairfield again claimed victory, 61-47. The Falcons of Fairfield were paced by two future all-state performers: the already mentioned Edie Clouse and her teammate, Kelly Bradshaw.
After the setback against Fairfield, the Trojans claimed the title of the Berean Academy Tournament with victories over Marion, Goessel and finally Hesston. In the title game, Calam continued her scoring blitz with 34 points.
Later, the Trojans edged Moundridge, 35-29, in a tightly-contested affair. The win was impressive. It was just the second loss for the girls of Moundridge, who at the time remained the No. 2-ranked team in Class 2A.
With a final victory over Peabody, Hillsboro closed the regular season with a 15-4 record.
The Herington sub-state tournament loomed next. Hillsboro was joined by teams from Marion, Alma, St. Marys, Mission Valley, Chase County, Bluestem and Herington. It was a loaded field.
“We are in one of the toughest sub-state tourneys in the state,” coach Coach Albrecht told the Hillsboro Star Journal. “Three of the teams (St. Marys, Chase County and Bluestem) are ranked in the Top 10 of Class 3A. We open with a tough first game against Alma.”
In the sub-state, Hillsboro managed to push aside Alma, St. Marys and finally Bluestem to claim the sub-state title.
The Trojans now set their sights on the 3A state tournament. First-round games were scheduled to be played at Buhler High School before the winners advanced to the second and third rounds, which were moved to the Hutchinson Sports Arena.
Joining Hillsboro were teams from Hesston, Southwestern Heights, Oakley, Yates, Center, Lindsborg, Sedan and Sabetha.
Hesston (17-5) had tied Hillsboro for third in the Mid-Kansas League. They were led in scoring by senior Cindy Dreier, with an average of 23.5 points per game.
The Swathers would battle Southwestern Heights (15-5) in the first round. For the Mustangs, this was the first winning season the girls’ program had ever experienced in seven years of organized basketball.
Oakley (15-7) traveled to state for the first time. The Plainsmen had tied for second in the rugged Northwest Kansas League that featured both Colby and Goodland. Oakley was matched with Yates Center (21-1), which came to state as the No. 2 seed. The Wildcats featured 6-foot, 2-inch center Jerrie Geuatney, who was one of the tallest players in the tournament.
Lindsborg (19-2) was the top seed. Both of the Vikings’ losses had come at the hands of Moundridge, which had qualified for the 2A state tournament. Guard Jill Stephens and forward Chris Stoecker paced Lindsborg with 17-point averages.
Lindsborg would open the tourney against Sedan (12-8). Nicknamed the Blue Devils, Sedan had played many close games throughout the year, losing six games by a combined eight points.
Sabetha (16-6) drew Hillsboro (18-4) in the final first-round game. Sabetha placed third in the ultra-competitive Big Seven League. Two members of the league (Hiawatha and Marysville) were playing in the 4A state tournament. Hiawatha had claimed the 1978 3A state title with a record of 24-1, but due to reclassification, had moved up to 4A just prior to the 1979 season.
Although Sabetha had played some stellar competition all year, Hillsboro was hardly intimidated, edging the Wildcats in the first round, 41-38. The Trojans trailed for most of the game, but used a fourth-quarter rally to finally claim the win.
In the semifinals, the Trojan magic evaporated as Lindsborg claimed victory with a 57-49 triumph. The Vikings, led by Jill Stephens, grabbed control of the game early in the second period and then withstood one late rally by the Trojans.
Hillsboro ended the stellar campaign with a 50-38 victory over Yates Center. With the win, the Trojans grabbed the third-place trophy and ended the season with a record of 20-5. Lindsborg went on to claim the state title. After the season, both Carla Calam and Leann Funk received all-state honors.
Over the years, the Hillsboro girls have claimed three state titles (1995, 1996 and 2007). At the writing of this column, the 2013 team was chasing its own state title dream. But for Trojans, all of the state tourney madness began in 1979 with a memorable team.
Next up, Peabody chases a state title.
© 2013 by Steven Michael Farney. All rights reserved. Ideas, comments or questions: email@example.com.