Hillsboro used a long-range missile attack to sink a Viking ship Monday night, coming from behind to clip Smoky Valley, 47-42, in the season opener for both teams.
The Trojans struggled to find some flow on offense during a tentative first half, but depended on defense to keep within range of the Vikings, 20-15, at intermission.
“I think early we were all a little nervous,” coach Darrel Knoll said. “We weren’t moving very well on offense and our timing was off. We just weren’t making any shots or getting any rebounds.”
The Trojans started the third quarter with a little more zing in their step and better ball movement. It paid off. A basket by Andy Klassen and a free throw by David Loewen inched the Trojans to within three, 21-18, within the first two minutes.
Then the aerial assault began. Clay Shewey, in his first varsity start, successfully launched a long-range volley from the right wing with 6:08 left in the quarter. Within 51 seconds, the 6-3 guard had tossed in two more from the same spot with laser-like precision.
With the Vikings struggling to adapt to the Trojans’ zone defense at the other end of the court, Hillsboro vaulted in almost a blink of an eye from a three-point deficit to a six-point lead at 27-21.
Then, with the Viking defense descending on Shewey, teammate Gavin Serene stepped up, cashing in two more 3-pointers before the end of the period. The second one, coming with 54 seconds left, gave HHS a double-digit lead at 35-25.
Perhaps stunned by the dramatic turn of events, Smoky never mounted a serious rally in the final quarter. The Vikings threw up 18 shots during the period, but made only five.
The Trojans cooled off, too, making only two of eight shots from the floor, but nailed the door shut at the free-throw line with 8-for-12 accuracy, including seven of eight during a critical two-minute stretch from 4:23 to 2:23 that extended the lead from 38-34 to 47-36.
“The one thing I told them was, no matter what, keep playing the entire game—it doesn’t matter how far behind or how far ahead we get,” Knoll said. “Considering our depth tonight, I thought we really did that. The guys played with a lot of heart and desire.”
Smoky Valley hit two 3-pointers in the final 1:45, but the Trojans refused to fold.
Shewey finished with high-point honors for Hillsboro with 14, including four 3-pointers and a pair of free throws. After a 1-for-5 start in the first half, he ended up with 4-for-9 accuracy from the field. All nine shots came beyond the arc.
Serene, another first-time starter, broke double figures as well, finishing with 11. He had a similar penchant for dialing long distance, launching all 10 of his shots coming from 3-point range. He made three.
“Those guys are really capable of shooting the ball well,” Knoll said. “The more comfortable they get in a varsity game, the better they’ll shoot the ball. We’ll just keep improving.”
As a team, the Trojans made 14 of 36 shots from the floor (39 percent), including seven of 20 from long range. Hillsboro finished strong at the free-throw line, but made only 12 of 23 (52 percent) over the course of the game.
Smoky Valley, meanwhile, shot a tepid 31 percent from the floor (15-48), including 5 of 21 shots from 3-point territory. From the line, the Vikings made seven of 10 attempts.
“I thought our zone worked pretty well tonight,” Knoll said. “We hadn’t spent a lot of time on it in practice, but I thought we rotated well.”
The Trojan coach was pleased with the win and how his young team competed to achieve it.
“Once we quit playing a little bit tentative and start finishing around the basket and start doing a few executions things—it’s the difference between making or breaking a game,” he said. “We could have broken it wide open just by finishing around the basket a little bit. But that will come with experience.”
Hillsboro will play host to Cheney on Tuesday night in the second round of pool play in the Cardinal Classic. Game time is 8 p.m.