Hillsboro turned up the heat in the third quarter after a first half of chilly shooting to hold off winless Pratt, 49-44.
The home-court victory got Hillsboro off to a 1-0 start in the Central Kansas League and evened its season record at 4-4. Pratt dropped to 0-1 and 0-7.
During the opening two quarters, the Trojans struggled to get the ball in the basket against Pratt’s zone defense. The home team trailed 10-7 after one quarter and 19-16 at halftime after making only six of 23 shots (26 percent) from the floor.
But the third period was a different story. Hillsboro made seven of 13 shots, most of them in the paint off steals and good passing, to swing the game in their favor, 35-26.
“We just talked at halftime about settling down and making some shots,” coach Darrel Knoll said. “We’ve just got to put the ball in the basket. In the first half we had six or seven shots that should have been made. It wasn’t like we were taking bad shots.”
Leading the third-quarter charge was Shaq Thiessen, who missed his first six shots of the game on the way to five points by halftime. The senior then hit his first two shots in the second half and finished with 11 points for the quarter.
“I thought in the third quarter we turned up the pressure a little bit,” Knoll said. “Shaq had a few steals and runouts, and those were key. We looked a lot better in the second half.”
With a 37-26 lead early in the fourth quarter, the Trojans seemed on the verge of blowing the game open. But the three-point shooting of Skylar Dean kept the Greenbacks on the edge of a comeback.
When Dean hit his second three of the quarter, and teammate Adam Bartel followed with a pair of free throws, Pratt was within 41-36 with 4:40 to play.
But the Trojans took advantage of Pratt’s propensity to foul and made eight of 10 free throws in the final 3:30 to nail down the victory.
Hillsboro pushed the lead back to 11 points, 49-38, with 30 seconds to play when a couple of turnovers combined with some silly fouls enabled Pratt to finish the game with two traditional three-point plays to close the final margin to five points.
Thiessen finished with 22 points to lead all scorers. Brett Weinbrenner added 11 for Hillsboro, while Dean led Pratt with 19.
The Trojans finished with a huge advantage at the free-throw line, making 19 of 26 free throws on 22 Pratt fouls while Pratt made four of seven on 11 Hillsboro fouls.
“I wasn’t happy with the ball movement in the first half at all, but at least we got good shots,” Knoll said. “In the second half I thought we were better about getting to spots and moving the ball and passing to people on time—which led to more looks and better finishes.
“Overall, I’m very happy with the effort and the way we kept playing in a tough game and got a win against a solid team,” he added.
Coming—The Trojans were scheduled to face Sterling (1-0, 2-6) on the road Tuesday. On Friday, Hillsboro will play host to Nickerson (0-1, 1-6).