Keying on their aggressive defense to offset another night of tepid shooting, the Hillsboro boys got the win they desperately needed with a 41-29 victory Friday at Lyons.
The Trojans, out for a measure of revenge after Lyons’ 41-35 win one week earlier at Moundridge, needed timely free-throw shooting down the stretch to snap a three-game losing streak and improve to 2-3. Lyons fell to 3-3.
Hillsboro looked sharp on both ends of the court in the first quarter, establishing a 15-9 lead by the end of it. Shaq Thiessen pumped in 11 points with three three-point shots and a two-point basket for HHS.
“The first quarter we moved the ball sharply, we really played to each other’s strengths and really scored well—I thought we looked impressive,” coach Darrel Knoll said. “We can do that all the time. We just need to get consistent, keep making the passes on time and then shoot the ball with confidence.”
But on this night, the Trojans cooled off dramatically in the final three quarter of the game, including 3-for-14 shooting in the second quarter.
Even so, Hillsboro’s defense was consistent enough to enable the Trojans to bump their lead to 21-13 by halftime. Hillsboro still led by eight points at the end of three quarters, 27-19.
Hillsboro pushed its lead to 30-21 on a traditional three-point play by Harry Faber with 6:49 left in the game. But both teams were unable to score until Grady Kirkhart of Lyons hit one of two free throws with 3:56 to play.
Teammate James Jared then drained a three-pointer and Ryan McClure added a two-pointer to narrow the margin to 32-27 with 1:48 to play.
The Trojans, still struggling from the floor, stepped up to nail nine of 12 free throws in the final 2:05, while holding Lyons to two points on a pair of free throws. Brett Weinbrenner made five of six free throws, Thiessen made two of three and Faber one of two.
Thiessen finished with 16 points to pace Hillsboro. Faber added 10. As a team, the Trojans made just under 27 percent from the field (12-45), but limited Lyons to 21 percent (10-47) and forced 18 turnovers.
“I think right now our guys are more determined to try to get things together and figure it out,” Knoll said. “We are capable of scoring more than 39, 40 points, but we’re just not doing it right now. We’re just playing a little tight.”
Halstead—The Trojans paid dearly for a twilight-zone performance in the second quarter, dropping a heart-breaking 39-38 decision at Halstead last Tuesday for their third straight loss.
Hillsboro dominated the opening quarter with a 12-4 lead. When Josh Wiebe scored his fourth and fifth points of the night in the first minute of the second quarter, the Trojan lead hit double digits at 14-4.
Suddenly, the game turned upside-down. Whether it was a defensive collapse by Hillsboro or simply hot shooting by the Dragons, Halstead went on a 20-2 run the rest of the period to turn an eight-point deficit after one quarter into an eight-point lead at 24-16 by halftime.
“It was just a poor effort defensively in the second quarter,” coach Darrel Knoll said. “They scored 39 points in the game, 20 in the second quarter. That’s unacceptable. That has nothing to do with anything than just playing basketball and staying with it.”
Halstead hit a 2- and a 3-point basket in the first 41 seconds of the third period to build its lead to 13 points at 29-16. But a basket by Harry Faber off an inbounds pass started Hillsboro on a slow route to recovery, aided by a defensive effort that shut out the Dragons the rest of the period.
Hillsboro’s recovery took a major leap forward when Brett Weinbrenner and Shaq Thiessen combined for eight points in the final 2:44 of the quarter to close the gap to 26-23.
But Weinbrenner fouled Anthony Santiago on a three-point attempt with 0.9 seconds left in the quarter. Santiago calmly sank all three free throws to push the lead to 32-26 at the final break.
With Halstead leading 39-33 in the fourth quarter, a free throw from Wiebe, a basket by Thiessen and two free-throws by Weinbrenner closed the gap to 39-38 with 56.5 second to play.
When Santiago went back to the line for a one-and-one opportunity after he was fouled by Evan Ollenburger with 42.1 seconds to go, the Trojans’ chances looked bleak.
Halstead was 14-for-14 at the free-throw line at the time.
But Santiago missed the front end. Halstead had another chance to ice the victory seconds later when Blake Bohling went to the line for two shots with 11.1 seconds left. Incredibly, Bohling missed both free throws and Hillsboro grabbed the rebound with a chance to win.
After a timeout with 6.7 seconds left, Thiessen took the inbounds pass, dribbled in from half court and drove the baseline. But the senior got bumped and missed his shot beneath the basket as time ran out.
Thiessen led HHS with 13 points, Weinbrenner added 11 and Wiebe 10 as the Trojans dropped to 1-3 while Halstead improved to 2-3.
Knoll said Evan Ollenburger’s defense helped put Hillsboro in position to win.
“I thought he played great,” Knoll said. “Evan brings it every night. He plays with a type of tenacity and toughness that everybody needs to play with.”
Coming—Hillsboro could finish the pre-holiday portion of its schedule with a winning record if the Trojans can win their first home game of the season Tuesday against Smoky Valley (1-3) and then find a way to beat a 5-0 Marion team Friday on the road.
“Marion’s playing great right now, and they’ve got an excellent team,” Knoll said. “We’ll see what we can do over there, but right now the focus (for us) has got to be to continue to get better.”