It truly was a Trojan Classic championship game for the home team Saturday night as this year’s group of talented and determined girls became the first Trojan team in the nine-year history of the tournament to win the girls’ title.
They did it with a 51-50 heart-stopper over Wamego, the previously undefeated and top-ranked team in Class 4A.
“That was one of the goals we had for the season,” coach Nathan Hiebert said of the title. “There’s been a lot of good girls’ teams that have come through, but we just haven’t gotten it done. It just shows the quality of the other teams. The quality was definitely here this year.”
That may be understated.
When it came time to seed this year’s tournament, five of the eight teams were undefeated and at, or near, the top of their respective classes.
Hillsboro received the No. 1 seed but, ironically, was the one team to lose a game before the tournament actually began.
“I just told the girls before the (Wamego) game, just make sure everyone leaves with one loss,” Hiebert said with a smile.
That was no small challenge. The Red Raiders featured a pair of talented 6-foot-2 sisters, Kaylee and Lanie Page, who have the height to be dominant inside, but also the agility and shooting prowess to star along the perimeter.
The dynamic duo scored all 14 of Wamego’s points in the first quarter. Hillsboro countered with six points from Tena Loewen and five from Addie Lackey, including a three-pointer with one second left, to stay within three at 14-11.
The Trojans finally caught the Red Raiders at 19 on a 12-foot jumper by Danae Bina, then grabbed the lead on the next possession when Loewen scored in the paint on a feed by Lackey. A free throw by Maddie Duerksen with 28.5 seconds left in the half enabled Hillsboro to take a 22-21 lead into the locker room.
Wamego scored the first six points of the third quarter to grab a five-point lead. But Bina brought Hillsboro back with a three-pointer and a two-pointer; Lackey added a basket on a nice feed from Christina Morris to put the Trojans on top, 29-28, at the 5:00 mark.
After a short streak of empty possessions by both teams, Rikki Alderson hit a three for Wamego at the 2:17 mark and Lanie Page followed with a basket in the paint to give Wamego a 33-31 lead. A pair of free throws by Hillsboro’s Maci Schlehuber tied the score at 33 as the final 1:28 slipped away without another score by either team.
Wamego started the fourth quarter with a pair of free throws, but Hillsboro responded with an 11-6 surge with Lackey scoring six points and Bina five—including a huge three from the top of the key—for a 42-37 lead with 4:17 to go.
But Wamego refused to wilt, retaking the lead with two threes from Lakyn Rowden, a two-pointer by Lanie Page and a pair of free throws by Rachel Griffitt.
Suddenly down by four at 50-46, Duerksen hit two clutch free throws with 1:52 to play. Then, after Kaylee Page missed the front end of a one-and-one, Lackey hit what turned out to be the game-winning shot by draining a three-pointer with 53 seconds left.
Neither team scored after that basket, but Kaylee Page’s halfcourt shot at the buzzer hit the back of the rim.
Lackey led HHS with 18 points, Bina tossed in 14 and Loewen 10 as Hillsboro improved to 12-1 for the season.
Lanie Page scored 20 points to lead all scorers. Sister Kaylee added 13, but on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-5 from behind the arc.
“Those two Page girls are fantastic,” Hiebert said. “They can do a lot of different things. Tena, Addie and Danae kind of had the task of guarding them, and I think all three of them did a fantastic job. I thought we frustrated them early on, and they weren’t as effective from the perimeter.”
Hillsboro 52, Hesston 34
After his team’s slow start Tuesday, Coach Nathan Hiebert said the Trojans would need to start strong if they were going to beat good teams. They did that Thursday, and defeated previously unbeaten Hesston.
Maci Schlehuber set the tone, scoring in the lane on an assist by Addie Lackey off the opening tipoff. On the defensive end, the Trojans forced turnovers on four of Hesston’s first six possessions; the other two possessions ended with a one-and-done missed shot. Hillsboro had a 13-6 lead as the quarter ended.
“We talked about really being sharp right off the bat,” Hiebert said. “We got the layup early and another bucket early off of exactly what we wanted. It builds our confidence, just understanding that what we’re running really does work.”
Schlehuber hit back-to-back three-pointers to start the second quarter, but Hesston narrowed the lead to 19-12 with 2:38 left. Danae Bina and Maddie Duerksen then hit consecutive shots and Loewen added a pair of free throws for a 6-0 run that ended the first half with a 25-12 Trojan lead.
For the second night in a row, the third quarter was Hillsboro’s most productive. One basket by Bina and two by Lackey in the first 3:00 pushed the lead to 31-12. The Swathers still trailed by 16 at the final break, 41-25.
“We talked about how (the Swathers) were going to come out with another wave (of intensity to start the second half), but our girls were focused,” Hiebert said. “That was probably our best-focused game so far.”
Hesston’s Ashley Weaver started the final period with a three-pointer, but the Trojans short-circuited any momentum switch with a 6-0 run on two baskets by Loewen and one by Lackey. Leading 47-28 with 3:52 to go, Hillsboro played out the clock without a Swather threat.
Loewen led all scorers with 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the floor and 4-of-5 from the free-throw stripe. Bina added 11 points and Lackey 10. As a team, the Trojans outshot the Swathers, 53 percent (20-38, including 3-of-4 behind the arc) to 27 percent (10-37, including 2-of-14 from three).
Hillsboro 65, TMP 25
First round, Tuesday
Considering the final score, Hillsboro got off to a slow start against No. 8 seed Thomas More Prep, managing a 12-8 lead on 4-for-13 shooting after one quarter.
But after Erin Winter scored the next points of the game with two free throws about 1:30 into the second quarter, the Trojans began to pick up steam, riding an 18-7 surge to a 30-15 lead by halftime.
Hillsboro lowered the boom in the third quarter, using defensive pressure to score multiple transition baskets. Addie Lackey contributed three steals, two assists and seven points, while Maci Schlehuber added seven points as the Trojans inflated the lead to 52-22 as the quarter ended.
“Defensively, we got some easy buckets and that really helped,” coach Nathan Hiebert said. “Also, we made some adjustments at halftime on offense that helped improve some things. We attacked the basket more.”
With the 30-point margin, the running clock kicked in for the fourth quarter, but the Trojans still pushed the lead from 30 to 40 points by the final buzzer.
Schlehuber broke out of a recent shooting slump for a career-high 20 points on 5-for-13 shooting from the floor and a perfect 8-for-8 at the free-throw line. Lackey finished an impressive all-around effort with 16 points, six steals and five assists. Tena Loewen added 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting.
As a team, Hillsboro shot 48 percent from the floor (24-50) while limiting TMP to 27 percent (8-29). The Trojan defense forced 24 turnovers while the offense committed only four.
Coming—The Trojans, with the week off from competition, will return to action Jan. 29 with a rematch against Sterling, who gave the Trojans their first loss three weeks earlier. This game, before the home crowd, will count for league standings.