Momentary lapse too much to overcome for girls
One rough patch late in the game proved to be decisive as the Hesston Swathers, ranked No. 5 in Class 4A, slipped past the Hillsboro Trojans, ranked No. 3 in 3A, 40-37, to pull into a tie for the Central Kansas League lead.
Hillsboro came into Friday’s game at Hesston with a 5-0 record in the league and 15-1 overall, while the Swathers were second at 4-1 and 14-2.
But there was more on the line for the home team. It was clear from the start that Hesston was determined to avenge a 52-34 loss to Hillsboro during the Trojan Classic three weeks earlier. And it also was clear that defense was going to be the primary theme for both teams.
Hillsboro led after one quarter, 9-7, but the Swathers built a 16-11 lead when Hesston’s Ashley Weaver hit a three-pointer at the 3:53 mark of the second period. By halftime, the Trojans had whittled the lead to 20-17.
A 6-2 surge in the final 2:12 of the third quarter enable Hesston to establish a 28-24 lead for the start of the decisive final period.
The Trojans then made their move. Danae Bina hit a three-pointer 12 seconds in, then baskets by Addie Lackey and Bina suddenly put Hillsboro on top, 31-30, with 5:08 to go.
Then the Trojans faltered. Committing turnovers on their next four possessions, then missing three straight shots enabled Hesston to build a seemingly insurmountable 37-31 lead with less than 30 seconds to play.
Coach Nathan Hiebert attributed the lapse to the pressure of the game.
“We got antsy,” he said. “You realize the urgency of the ballgame. I think the girls kind of felt that.”
But they also refused to yield.
Lackey broke the scoring drought for Hillsboro with a three-pointer at the 21-second mark. The Trojans then got a break when Hesston freshman Cami Richardson missed both free throws after a technical foul was called on Christina Morris with 15.4 second to go.
When Hesston put the ball in play after the free throws, Lackey fouled Richardson again with 14.7 seconds left. This time the freshman iced both charities to give her team a 39-34 lead.
Lackey missed a three at the other end, but Tena Loewen rebounded the shot and scored. The senior was fouled on the play and added the free throw to bring Hillsboro to within 39-37 with 6.4 seconds left.
The Trojans fouled Kelci Unruh on the inbounds play with 5.4 seconds showing. The sophomore made the first free throw but missed the second. Loewen rebounded the miss and Hillsboro called a timeout with 3.9 seconds left.
Needing a three-point basket to tie, the inbounds pass came to Bina, who stepped just inside the arc as she launched a shot at the buzzer. It missed the mark.
Hiebert credited the Swathers for the Trojans’ late lapse.
“Turnovers and taking care of the ball are huge things, and a good team will take advantage of that,” he said. “Hesston made us pay for it.
“I thought we were the aggressor the first time we played them, but this time they were a little more assertive,” he added. “They came out and played an excellent ballgame.”
Lackey led all scorers with 16 points while Loewen added nine. Leading Hesston was Unruh with 13 points and Richardson with nine.
Smoky Valley—It’s hard to quibble with a 29-point victory, but even coach Nathan Hiebert admitted his team didn’t play to its usual standard in the 55-26 league win Tuesday at Lindsborg against last-place Smoky Valley (0-5, 2-14).
“It was kind of ugly—it wasn’t comfortable,” he said. “Some of the girls wondered if we were overlooking them. I didn’t necessarily think that. It was kind of an off night, and we just had to grind it out.
“I told the girls we were going to have games like that. I was glad we battled through it. We had stretches where we looked really good.”
The first quarter wasn’t one of those stretches. The Trojans managed a 5-0 start in the first three minutes, but didn’t score again until Maci Schlehuber scored on a drive through the lane and added a bonus free throw with 3:00 left. The quarter ended with HHS leading, 12-6.
With Tena Loewen stepping up with eight points in the second quarter, Hillsboro pushed the lead to a more comfortable 17 points by halftime, 29-12. Loewen scored 13 points by intermission.
Addie Lackey, who struggled in the first half, found her shooting touch midway through the third quarter, scoring six consecutive points in a minute’s span to push the lead to 29-17 with 4:09 left.
Hillsboro led 46-21 by the end of the quarter, despite making only four of eight free throws. The Trojans missed their final seven free throws of the game to finish 8-for-22 (36 percent).
Another scoring burst by Lackey—seven points in less than two minutes—pushed the lead to 55-23, kicking in the running clock for the final 4:16.
Loewen led the Trojans with 17 points and Lackey finished with 16. Danae Bina chipped in 10 points and seven of Hillsboro’s 19 steals.
The win was the 100th for Hiebert in this his sixth season as the girls’ coach. With 37 losses his winning percentage is 73.
Coming—Hillsboro can still claim at least a share of the CKL crown if they win their last three games of the regular season. The Trojans were to host Halstead (2-4, 7-10) Tuesday, then travel to Haven Friday for a key test. The Wildcats are ranked fifth in 3A (4-2, 14-3).
The regular season concludes next Tuesday at Kingman (2-4, 5-11).
For same-night reports on all three games call the Free Line (620-947-3363) or go to hillsborofreepress.com.
Trojan boys inches short of upsetting Swathers
The casual fan might have given the 10-6 Hillsboro boys little chance of knocking off 14-2 Hesston, ranked No. 8 in Class 4A.
But there was nothing casual about Friday’s game.
Playing before a raucous, near-capacity crowd in Hesston’s gymnasium, the Trojans battled to within inches of an upset. A last-second shot just missed the mark and the Swathers escaped with a 44-43 victory.
The Swathers came into the game with a 5-0 league record with Hillsboro second at 4-1.
“To come back against a team as good as Hesston, I was happy,” coach Darrel Knoll said. “At times in this game I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.”
That was true early in the contest, when the Trojans seemed on the edge of letting the game get away from them.
Six points from Hesston’s Ryan Schadler in the last 3:16 of the first quarter—including a steal and a basket in the final seconds—put Hesston in charge at 14-5 at the first break.
But Hillsboro responded with perhaps its best offensive effort of the night, outscoring Hesston, 15-9 during the first 4:30 of the second period to pull to within 23-20. Brett Weinbrenner and Harry Faber hit back-to-back threes to ignite the rally.
But the Swathers regrouped, scoring the last six points of the half to reclaim momentum with a 29-20 lead.
Hesston switched to a zone defense to start the third quarter, and it seemed to befuddle the Trojans at the start. But Brett Weinbrenner caught fire with three baskets over a two-minute stretch. Hesston still led, 33-26, but the Trojans seemed to find confidence.
But Hesston finished the quarter with a 5-2 surge to take a 41-31 lead into the fourth quarter.
Hillsboro started the final quarter with an 8-2 rally fueled by four points from Faber and two each by Josh Wiebe and Weinbrenner—the latter on free throws after a technical foul was called on Hesston’s Tyler McCartney with 5:40 to play.
With Hesston leading, 43-39, neither team scored until Shaq Thiessen drove the lane for two points with 2:33 to go. After Hesston hit one of two free throws with 1:30 to play, Weinbrenner hit a 12-footer from the baseline with 1:04 left to pull the Trojans to within 44-43.
Hillsboro’s Jesse Brown got a crucial steal off an inbounds pass, but his layup was blocked by Hesston’s 6-foot-6 Wyatt McKinney with 48 seconds left.
Hillsboro got the ball back with a chance to win, but Weinbrenner’s last second shot just missed.
“We got a decent shot,” Knoll said. “It wasn’t the one we were looking for, but Hesston did a great job of defending what we ran.”
Knoll lauded the play of his team, with several players making key contributions—especially Brown, who has come on strong in the last week or two.
“He just got after it defensively,” Knoll said. “I thought he was the guy who maybe changed the pace of the game. It just picked up the energy.”
Faber and Weinbrenner each finished with 15 points to pace the Trojans.
“Harry hit some great shots,” Knoll said. “I thought he played a strong game all night, and we are able to keep him on the floor. That was big for us.”
Considering his team lost, Knoll came away encouraged.
“There are thing we need to continue to correct,” he said. “If we can do that in the next two weeks, we have a chance to make a run. We’ve got to believe in ourselves and keep playing together. We are as good as anybody we play. We have to understand that and go out and win these kinds of games.”
Smoky Valley—Hillsboro’s 41-35 win over last-place Smoky Valley Tuesday in Lindsborg was a testament to the Trojans’ determination and grit more than their talent and finesse.
That was especially true in the fourth quarter, when a shaky start—they missed all three shots from the field and three of four free throws, and committed two turnovers in four possessions—enabled the home team to trim a 34-28 lead to 35-32 with 6:04 to play.
Struggling for points against the Viking zone defense, Hillsboro seemed intent on running time off the clock. Shaq Thiessen broke the pattern, hitting a 15-footer with 4:10 to play.
After the two teams traded turnovers—and the Trojans ran more clock—Evan Ollenburger was fouled with 43.4 seconds left, putting the Trojans at the line with a bonus opportunity.
Ollenburger missed the first free throw, but a bad Viking pass off the rebound gave Hillsboro the ball once more. Brett Weinbrenner then passed ahead to an open Josh Wiebe for a layup and foul with 39.5 seconds to play.
After Wiebe missed the bonus free throw, Smoky’s Andy Osner nailed a three-point shot from the baseline with 18 seconds left to give the Vikings a glimmer of hope, trailing by four.
Following a Viking timeout, Hillsboro’s Jesse Brown was fouled with 15.8 seconds left. When the junior missed the first free throw, the Vikings rebounded and got the ball to Osner, who launched a three from top of the key. But it fell well short of the rim and out of bounds with 8.4 seconds left.
Weinbrenner, fouled after the inbounds pass, nailed both free throws with 5.4 seconds left for the final margin.
“I was proud of us for sticking with it,” coach Darrel Knoll said. “So many things could have gone wrong at the end of this ballgame. But we did battle hard and played pretty good defense all night.”
The game was close from the start. Hillsboro led 12-10 after one quarter and 24-20 at halftime, but grew the lead to 34-24 at the 3:07 mark of the third quarter with six straight points.
Osner, who scored all eight of his team’s points in the third quarter and had 20 for the game, scored twice in the final 19 seconds to cut the lead to 34-28 at the final break.
Thiessen led Hillsboro with 13 points; Weinbrenner was right behind with 12. As a team, the Trojans shot 40 percent from the field, but only 1-for-10 from behind the arc. They made only eight of 16 free throws; Smoky made two of only three attempts.
“We struggle here,” Knoll said of the Viking gym. “I can’t remember the last time we played a great game in this building. I’ll take a win here any way we can get it.”
Coming—On the heels of the Hesston game, Hillsboro will continue the “H-town” tour this week by hosting Halstead (3-3, 7-10) Tuesday, then traveling to Haven (3-3, 11-6) Friday.
The regular season concludes next Tuesday at Kingman (2-4, 7-9).
For same-night reports on all three games call the Free Line (620-947-3363) or go to hillsborofreepress.com.