Winfield scored first and appeared to flummox the Trojans in the opening moments. But a timeout by coach Darrel Knoll 42 seconds into the contest seemed to flip the power switch.
Gavin Serene started the show with a 3-pointer from the left corner, igniting a 9-0 Trojan run over the next two minutes.
“I just told them to get their heads on straight and play ball,” Knoll said of the early pep talk. “I was really pleased with the way we responded.”
With the score 9-2, Winfield coach Rob Fields responded with a timeout of his own. His team slowed the Trojan charge as the two teams traded baskets through the rest of the quarter.
But with Clay Shewey making two baskets from behind the arc and Serene capping the quarter with one more, Hillsboro led 22-13 at the first break on 9-of-11 shooting from the field.
Hillsboro expanded its lead to 29-18 over the first 2:30 of the second period before the Trojans hit a brief icy patch on the road to victory. Winfield scored three straight transition baskets off steals to pull within 29-24.
Another timeout by Knoll stopped the skid, but Winfield ended the quarter with one more 6-0 run in the final 47 seconds to pull within a point by halftime, 35-34.
“We got a little fatigued at that point,” Knoll said of the shaky stretch. “Part of this team’s job right now is to play an up-tempo game and be able to control the pace well enough that we can have our legs until we get more depth developed.”
Hillsboro apparently recharged those legs over the break and started the fireworks all over again in the third quarter. The Trojans extended the lead to 42-34 on a basket and old-fashioned three-point play by Daniel Jost and a basket in the paint by David Loewen on an assist from Jost.
The Trojans hit one last icy spot midway through the third quarter, missing 10 straight shots over a 4:30 stretch. But their aggressive defense prevented major damage, allowing only four points during the spell.
Five points by Loewen over the final 1:45 kept Hillsboro up by seven, 47-40, at the final break.
The Trojans returned to early-game form in the final period. Serene again lit the fuse with another 3-pointer. The Vikings managed to hang within 10 points before Shewey drained a 3-pointer with 4:02 to play to push the lead to 61-48.
Winfield began fouling at that point, and the Trojans responded with 11-of-14 free throws down the stretch to grow the lead to 74-52 with 1:18 left. Knoll rewarded the effort by pulling his weary starters at that point.
Hillsboro finished with four players in double-figure scoring. Shewey led with 25 points, including six of the Trojans’ nine 3-pointers. Serene, who had the other three, chipped in 15 points and Jost 12.
Loewen, who played a monster game at post, finished with 19 points and XX rebounds.
“Clay and Gavin shot the ball well today, and I thought Dave did a better job today of understanding his role of scoring in the paint and getting the guys the ball where they needed it. And Daniel seemed as comfortable as he’s been in his new role (as point guard), and played really well.”
Across the board, Knoll was pleased with his team’s focus and drive.
“It was a great effort,” he said. “I thought our guys competed the entire game, took care of the boards and played smart defense for the most part.”
Cheney—The Cheney Cardinals proved they are one of the better teams in Class 3A, combining superior speed and strength to run away from the Trojans at Brown Gymnasium, 65-45, in the second round of the Cardinal Classic on Tuesday.
Hillsboro led for the final time, 9-8, when David Loewen nailed a 6-footer with 2:08 left in the first quarter. A basket by Cheney and two missed free throws by Hillsboro put the Cardinals up by a point at the first break.
Cheney began taking control in the second quarter when Brock Zerener scored off a steal, then added a pair of 3-pointers to put the Cardinals in front, 18-11, in the first three minutes.
The two teams traded baskets the rest of the period, with Zerener giving his team a 27-19 lead at intermission by nailing one more 3-pointer in the final seconds.
Zerener picked up where he left off to start the second half. His basket on a drive to the hole ignited an 8-2 run and a 35-21 Cheney lead a little more than three minutes into the third period.
The Trojans essentially traded baskets with the Cardinals to arrive at a 48-30 score heading into the final frame. Cheney led by as many as 23 points, 62-39, with 2:38 left, prompting coach Randy Leroux to clear his bench.
Hillsboro coach Darrel Knoll was not so much disappointed in losing to one of the top teams in the area as with the energy level of his team.
“We didn’t play with any spring in our step tonight,” he said. “(Cheney is) just physically stronger than us, they got down the lanes in a hurry, and we didn’t do a very good job of getting back on defense. We gave up too many easy ones.”
One bright spot for the Trojans was the production of their 6-feet, 5-inch post, Loewen, who led both teams with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field. Daniel Jost broke double digits with 10 points.
As a team, Hillsboro shot a solid 51 percent from the floor (18-35), but made only two of 14 shots from behind the arc.
Cheney, meanwhile, was fueled by Zerener’s 17 points and 14 from Sam Casner. They shot a healthy 56 percent from the field, including a 15-0 advantage in points off of turnovers. Hillsboro committed an uncharacteristic 20 errors compared to eight for the Cardinals.
Coming—Facing the possibility of a winter storm, Hillsboro (2-1) was scheduled to play host to Halstead on Tuesday, then travel to Nickerson on Friday before finishing its pre-holiday schedule with a game at home against the defending Class 3A state champions from Wichita Collegiate.