Wanting to make a statement to themselves and their fans following a disappointing loss to Sterling Tuesday, the Hillsboro girls started Friday’s contest against Nickerson with the precision of a blitzkrieg assault on the way to a 61-16 blowout.
The Trojans scored 24 points while forcing 10 turnovers on the way to a 24-2 lead at the first-quarter break. Addie Lackey reeled off 12 points by mid-quarter, then Tena Loewen scored eight straight in the last 2:30 to fuel the Trojan attack.
The fury slowed in the second quarter, but the Trojans were solidly in control by halftime with a 37-6 lead.
The only question in the second half was how big the final margin might be and whether the Panthers would reach double digits on the scoreboard. A 17-2 performance in the third quarter only heightened the curiosity as the two teams reached the final break with a 54-8 score.
The entire fourth quarter was played with a running clock and Trojan substitutes. The Panthers finally reached 10 points on a basket by Paige Stewart with 6:15 to play.
“The girls did a great job,” coach Nathan Hiebert said. “We talked about some things we just didn’t do very well against Sterling. We did much better tonight. I thought we did a much better job of taking them out of what they wanted to do.”
Lackey led the Trojans in scoring (17 points), rebounds (six) and steals (six) as Hillsboro improved to 2-0 in the Central Kansas League and 9-1 overall. Loewen added 15 points and Danae Bina 11.
Nickerson, who committed 27 turnovers for the game compared to seven for Hillsboro, dropped to 0-2 and 0-8.
“I thought we dominated pretty much every facet of the game,” Hiebert said.
Sterling—Hillsboro lost the showdown of No. 1 teams last Tuesday at Sterling, 48-43. When it came down to it, the Black Bears, the top-ranked team in Class 2A, made shots when it counted most and the Trojans, the top team in 3A, didn’t.
Hillsboro overcame a halftime deficit of 23-17 to lead 41-37 midway through the fourth quarter. But the Trojans made only one of its next 11 shots to leave the door open for a Sterling comeback.
The Black Bears took advantage of the opportunity, going 4-for-4 from the floor, including a huge three-point basket by Aubrey Nuest that gave her team the lead for good at 46-43 with 37 seconds to play.
“During our (scoring) runs, we were getting what we wanted—we were getting good looks, we were getting to the basket, we were getting wide open shots,” coach Nathan Hiebert said. “Then all of a sudden we’re taking shots that were not very good being up by (only) four points.”
The two teams employ a similar style: rattling their opponents with defensive pressure, then pushing the ball up the court for transition baskets. The problem was, Sterling was doing it better than Hillsboro was.
The Trojans committed an uncharacteristic 14 turnovers during the first half and shot poorly (6-21, 28 percent). Meanwhile, the youthful Black Bears committed only five turnovers and shot better (9-23, 38 percent).
The Trojans turned the tables as the second half began, getting back-to-back three-pointers from Addie Lackey in the first 1:42. Sterling still led by four, 29-25, when Danae Bina hit a 17-footer with 2:31 left in the period. The basket ignited an 8-2 run that carried the Trojans to a 33-31 lead at quarter’s end.
After Lackey scored on a drive to the basket to start the final period, Tena Loewen tossed in six points on two baskets and two free throws to give the Trojans their 41-37 lead with 4:24 to play.
Loewen, who sat out several minutes in the first quarter after picking up two fouls, finished as Hillsboro’s top scorer with 18 points. Lackey added 14.
Freshman Kylah Comley led Sterling with 15 points and Andi Dowell added 12.
Hiebert said he hopes his team realizes the importance of every possession against a quality team.
“It’s something we’ve been talking about a lot because some of the teams we saw early weren’t as tough as Sterling would be,” he said. “When you squander a few possessions you’re going to let a good team back in the game.”
Coming—The Trojans were scheduled to open play Tuesday as the No. 1 seed at the Trojan Classic against eighth-seeded Thomas More Prep (1-8).
The outcome will determine whether the Trojans play the winner of No. 4 Holcomb (9-0) versus No. 5 Hesston (9-0) at 8 p.m. Thursday, or the loser of that game at 4:45 p.m.
For same-night reports during the tournament, call the Free Line at 947-3363 or go to hillsborofreepress.com for stories and photos.
Completing this year’s field are Republic County (No. 2, 10-0), Wamego (No. 3, 8-0), Riley County (No. 6, 5-4) and Goodland (No. 7, 2-5).
At the time the seedings were determined, the Classic field included the No. 1 (Wamego) and 2 (Hesston) teams in Class 4A, the No. 1 (Hillsboro) and No. 2 (Holcomb) teams in 3A and the No. 2 team (Republic County) in 2A.