In the end, never mind the humbling circumstances. The intensity of the battle stayed true to tradition, with Hillsboro claiming a hard-fought 67-62 victory over Riley County on Saturday afternoon.
The Falcons jumped to an early 7-4 lead, before the Trojans rallied to post a 15-12 advantage at the first break on the strength of a late 8-0 run that vaulted HHS into a 15-9 lead.
Riley County came back to take its largest lead, 22-17, at the 5:29 mark of the second period. But a 6-0 run by Hillsboro in the final 1:15 on a pair of free throws by Taylor Hagen, a steal and layup by Clay Shewey and a basket in the paint by Andy Klassen off a nice feed from Gavin Serene gave the Trojans a 34-33 advantage at intermission.
After a seesaw start to the third quarter, Riley County took what turned out to be its last lead of the game, 39-37, when Jacob Hagenmaier scored in the paint with 5:56 left in the period.
But Serene answered with a 3-pointer from the right corner that ignited an 11-2 surge that carried HHS to a 49-41 lead by the end of the quarter.
The margin grew as large as 57-46 when David Loewen scored in the paint with 3:57 to go. But Riley made one last run, and when Jase Hartenbower converted a steal by teammate Bruce Field into a traditional 3-point play with 34 seconds left, the Falcons were within a possession of Hillsboro at 65-62 with 34 seconds to play.
When a deep pass from Jost sailed over the head of a Trojan teammate, Riley got the possession it needed with 23 seconds to go. Hartenbower was then called for traveling with 15 seconds left, but Shewey returned the favor 7 seconds later.
Following a Riley timeout, Blake Hageman launched the potential tying shot, but missed the mark. Serene was fouled off the rebound and calmly sank the final two free throws with 2 seconds left to nail down the Trojans’ first Classic victory.
Serene’s contribution of 15 points was second only to Shewey’s 17 for HHS. Loewen added 14 points and pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds as the Trojans overcame 21 turnovers to improve to 6-5 for the season.
Field, a nemesis for Hillsboro from start to finish, had a game-high 22 points and six steals. Hammel added 15 points and Hartenbower 12.
“I thought we played a really good ball game today,” coach Darrel Knoll said. “We had some unfortunate turnovers at the end to make it a little more exciting. But the guys kept playing hard.
“I was proud of the effort today against a team that played a real physical game with us, and we were able to withstand it for the most part.”
Marion 59, HHS 49
Marion parlayed superior intensity into a fourth quarter surge that carried the Warriors to the 10-point win in the consolation semifinals on Thursday.
“It was a pathetic performance by us,” said Hillsboro coach Darrel Knoll. “Marion simply wanted it more than we did.”
The Warriors showed better focus from the start, but Hillsboro managed to keep pace with the Warriors through the first three quarters.
The two teams literally traded scores through a first quarter that ended in an 18-18 tie. Marion got eight points from Calvin Jeffrey and five each from Justin Heidebrecht and Eric Vogel, while David Loewen and Clay Shewey provided all but two of Hillsboro’s points.
Marion held a slight upper hand through much of the second quarter, but a pair of free throws by Shewey and a traditional 3-point play by Daniel Jost in the final 25 seconds put the Trojans back on top at halftime, 29-28.
When Shewey sank back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the third period, Hillsboro seemed ready to take control with a 39-32 lead.
Loewen went to the bench with his fourth foul at the 2:26 mark and the Trojans leading 41-37. Gavin Serene then put HHS back in front by seven with a 3-pointer with 2:03 left.
But Marion responded with two baskets in the paint by Vogel, followed by one by Chase Carlson in the final second to pull within 44-43 at the final break.
Vogel started the fourth quarter with a basket and Carlson followed with a pair of free throws to give Marion a three-point lead.
Loewen reentered the game at that point and scored back-to-back baskets to give Hillsboro its last lead at 48-47 with 5:35 to play. Loewen contributed one more free throw before fouling out with 1:53 left and Marion leading 53-49.
With nobody stepping up for Hillsboro to fill the void, Marion pulled away with baskets by Isaac Hett and Vogel and a pair of free throws by Jeffrey in the final 1:08.
“I felt we easily played our best game of the year today, on both ends of the floor,” Marion coach Rex Ostmeyer said. “The ball went in the basket early in the game and that always helps, and we stayed pretty consistent throughout the game on both ends of the floor.
“Hopefully we can build on this outing for the rest of the season.”
The Warriors made 54 percent (25-46) of their shots compared to 43 percent (19-44) for Hillsboro. Marion held a 25-20 advantage on the boards.
Loewen (21) and Shewey (20) combined for all but eight of Hillsboro’s points while Marion fed off the threesome of Jeffrey (14), Vogel (13) and Heidebrecht (11).
TMP 78, HHS 75 (OT)
Hillsboro ran stride for stride with a quality Thomas More Prep squad most of the night, but a rush of missteps in the final minute of overtime opened the door for the Monarch victory in Tuesday’s first-round game.
Leading 75-70 after Gavin Serene hit a couple of free throws with 1:31 left in the extra period, the Trojans appeared to be positioned to win.
But after TMP responded to Serene’s free throws with a bucket at the 1:16 mark, Austin Budke intercepted a Clay Shewey pass and raced in for a layup with 59 seconds left.
Following a Trojan timeout, TMP deflected the ball from Serene’s dribble and Daniel Jost was called for his fifth foul scrambling to retrieve it. Budke hit both ends of the one-and-one to put the Monarchs ahead, 76-75.
On Hillsboro’s next possession, Serene thought Shewey was going to zig, but he zagged instead, and the pass skipped out of bounds with 16.7 seconds left.
A quick foul by David Loewen put Drew Hertel on the line with 13.7 seconds to go. But the junior hit both ends of his one-and-one to bump TMP’s lead to three.
With Hillsboro needing a trey to tie, Andy Klassen launched his first 3-point attempt of the season as the clock neared expiration—but the shot was partially blocked.
Serene grabbed the loose ball and quickly tossed up a desperate 3-point effort just before the buzzer sounded. The ball bounced off the front of the rim to end the game.
“Varsity inexperience certainly played into the end of the game,” coach Darrel Knoll said. “We made critical errors on communication and understanding the situation. It’s a tough way to learn a lesson, but hopefully, we will handle it as a learning experience and not let it ruin our season.”
The heartbreaking finish stole thunder from Shewey’s outstanding production on offense. The junior scored 20 points in the first half and finished with a career-high 34 for the game.
“Clay was excellent,” Knoll said. “What impressed me the most is that he continued to score even when he drew much attention.”
Loewen added 17 points and Serene 10 for HHS. With TMP exploiting the paint all night, Nolan McNeil tallied 19 points while Budke finished with 16 and Drew Thomas 14.
“We were undersized compared to them,” Knoll said. “TMP does a great job of executing interior basketball, and we did not rise to the challenge of being tough enough to defend it. We will keep working to correct that issue.”
Coming—Hillsboro (6-5, 2-0) will prepare this week for a quick rematch Friday with Marion (1-1, 4-7) in a league contest at Brown Gymnasium on Friday. On Tuesday, the Trojans compete at Haven (0-3, 1-9).