After a slow start by both squads in second half, the Trojans suddenly found their stride. Trailing 28-18, the comeback started mildly when Tiffany Rooker made one of two free throws with 3:49 left in the third quarter. But that sparked a 10-2 burst that carried HHS to within 30-28 by the end of the quarter. Four Trojans contributed points to the run.
After Hesston made a free throw to start the final period, Samantha Heinrichs became the fifth Trojan contributor, draining a 3-pointer with 7:26 left to pull Hillsboro into a 31-31 tie.
When Dakota Kaufman stole the ball and raced in for a layup with 5:30 to play, Hillsboro had its first lead at 37-36. The two teams traded points until Kaufman scored again with 3:32 to go to keep Hillsboro on top, 43-41.
“In the second half we realized we could play with them,” coach Nathan Hiebert said of his team’s resurgence. “I thought our defensive pressure picked up a lot, that frustrated (Hesston) and got some easier buckets.
“We were actually running our press break and getting some good looks out of that,” he added. “We realized that if you run it all the way through you can actually get some easy buckets. They started seeing that, and their confidence got higher. Confidence helps on both the defensive and offensive ends.”
But the boost ran out before the clock did.
Hesston called a timeout with 2:58 to go. Whatever coach Matt Richardson said to his squad turned the tide of the game as Taylor Raleigh bagged a 3-pointer off the ensuing inbounds pass.
Like Cinderella at midnight, Hillsboro suddenly slipped back into turnover mode and managed only two shots the rest of the way—both misses. Meanwhile, Hesston made seven of eight free throws en route to the 10-point victory.
“We were a little fatigued, but Hesston did a nice job,” Hiebert said. “They kept attacking, kept their composure and knocked down free throws—and that made it hard for us.”
Hillsboro actually outshot Hesston from the floor, 50 percent to 47 percent, and had a 20-17 lead in rebounds. But the Trojans’ 27 turnovers for the game—57 total in their two tournament losses—was a decisive factor, as was Hesston’s huge advantage at the free-throw line. The Swathers bagged 21 of 29 attempts while Hillsboro made eight of 10.
Kaufman led Hillsboro with 15 points and Amy Neufeld added 10. Raleigh led all scorers with 21 points.
TMP 45, HHS 23
Thomas More Prep used defensive pressure to frustrate and eventually shut down Hillsboro in their semifinals matchup on Thursday night.
The defense on both ends of the court was effective in the early going. Six Trojan turnovers limited Hillsboro to six shots, while TMP tossed up 13 but made only four to secure an 8-7 advantage at the first break.
TMP’s Kaylee Hoffman drained a 3-pointer to start the second period, but baskets by Kassidi Luthi and Amanda Faber tied the game at 11 at the 6:04 mark.
But turnovers limited the Trojans to only three more shots the rest of the quarter. Nothing dropped through except two free throws by Faber with 1:25 left.
Meanwhile, Hillsboro limited TMP to 4-for-12 shooting over that same span, but that was productive enough for the Monarch’s to extend its lead to 20-13 by intermission.
The game continued along a similar path through the third quarter. TMP made three of its first four shots, plus one of two free throws, to build a 10-point lead at the 5:31 mark.
Thanks largely to Trojan turnovers, the Monarchs were able to maintain that margin at quarter’s end, 31-21, even with 2-for-8 shooting the rest of the period.
Visibly frustrated and wearing down as the fourth quarter started, Hillsboro slowly slipped away as TMP pieced together an 8-0 run through the first 5:25.
With his team trailing 41-21 at that point, Coach Nathan Hiebert pulled his starters for the final 2:35.
Hillsboro actually shot better from the floor than TMP did—42 percent to 39 percent—but had fewer than half the attempts (24 to 51) thanks to a season-high 31 turnovers.
No Trojan scored more than 6 points as the team endured a season low on the scoreboard. Hoffman finished with 19 to lead the Monarchs.
HHS 55, Sunrise 47
Amy Neufeld stepped up with 17 second-half points to fuel the Trojans to victory over the Buffaloes in their first-round matchup on Tuesday.
Hillsboro trailed second-seeded Sunrise at intermission, 23-20, after seeing its 20-15 lead evaporate in the final 2:47 of the second period.
But Neufeld signaled what was to come by draining a 10-foot shot 15 seconds into the third quarter. The senior added a free throw, two 3-pointers and a layup off a fast break for 11 points before the quarter expired.
Even so, it took two free throws by Kassidi Luthi with 0.4 seconds left in the period to lift Hillsboro into a 35-33 lead at the final break.
Neufeld followed Luthi’s example by hitting two free throws to start the fourth quarter, continuing a Trojan streak that grew to 12 makes in 14 attempts by the end of the game. Luthi hit six of seven during that run.
Still, the game’s outcome was not determined until late in the contest. When Neufeld scored a basket in the lane with 4:53 to play, Hillsboro led by seven points, 43-36. But Sunrise responded with six unanswered points to draw close again.
Neufeld then found Dakota Kaufman in the paint for an easy 2 points with 2:49 to go, and the Trojans fed themselves at the free-throw line the rest of the way.
Tiffany Rooker started the feast with two tosses at the 2:09 mark and Neufeld capped it by sinking the final two with 8.8 seconds left.
During the final 2:09, Rooker went 4-for-4, Luthi 1-for-2, Samantha Heinrichs 1-for-2, Amanda Faber 2-for-2 and Neufeld 2-for-2.
Meanwhile, Sunrise made only two of six field-goal attempts, including one 3-pointer, and missed both of its one-and-one opportunities.
Luthi’s career-high 12 points off the bench was key to the win.
Coming—Hillsboro (5-6, 2-0) will square off against Marion (6-6, 2-0) in a league contest at Brown Gymnasium on Friday. On Tuesday, the Trojans compete at Haven (3-0, 6-2).