Written by Don Ratzlaff Monday, 26 February 2007 18:00In the end, the Hillsboro High boys simply ran out of gas en route to a 54-40 loss to Smoky Valley in the regular-season finale for both teams Friday at Lindsborg.
Even with a full roster, the Trojans had their work cut out for them against the Vikings, who came into the game with an 8-2 league record and a 15-4 mark overall.
Even with starters Darren Enns and Aaron Stepanek singing at a music convention, the Trojans started well, leading as late as 12-11 when Tyler Kaufman scored on a drive with 2:00 left in the opening period.
Mark Bengston responded with a 3-pointer and Justin Holcom added a 2-pointer in the final 1:05 to give the home team a 16-12 edge after one period.
The Trojans were still within two points at 21-19 after Hamm scored with 3:47 left in the first half. But the Viking scored the next six points and took a 27-21 lead into the locker room at intermission.
Hillsboro held its own in the third period, trailing 39-31 when it was over. But as the fourth quarter progressed, it was clear the Trojans were running out of steam.
Chase Dippel scored nine of his game-high 17 points as the Vikings slowly but surely pulled away down the stretch. When he hit a pair of free throws with 1:32 to go, Smoky Valley enjoyed its largest lead of the night, 54-35.
Hamm led the Trojans with 12 points. As a team, Hillsboro made 19 of 47 shots from the floor (40 percent), but only one of 14 attempts from behind the arc. The Trojans went to the free-throw line only six times and made three.
"Our shot selection from (behind the arc) in the first half was not good," coach Darrel Knoll said. "We talked about that a couple of times, but still it was two or three passes and then crank it.
"I thought in the second we had better shot selection. We had to shoot some (3-pointers) toward the end, but we just couldn't make any. It just wasn't our night shooting the ball."
Meanwhile, the Vikings made 17 of 31 shots (55 percent) from the floor and went to the foul line 20 times and cashed in 16.
"We put them on line too much, that's for sure," Knoll said.
"They're a good team," he added. "I was really proud with how hard we played. It would have been nice to have a couple of more players. They had more depth than we did tonight, and that was probably bigger than anything. They were able to stay fresher than were."
Lyons-Hillsboro moved above .500 for the first time this season with a gritty 48-38 win at Lyons on Tuesday.
The Trojans (10-9) were leading by a 6-4 score when sophomore Gavin Serene came off the bench to nail a 3-pointer at the 4:57 mark of the opening period. The basket sparked the Trojans to a 13-8 lead after one quarter.
That margin grew to 23-10 by halftime as the Trojans limited the home team 1-for-11 shooting to fuel a decisive 10-2 second-quarter surge.
"I thought we contested well and we rebounded pretty well," coach Darrel Knoll said about the opening half. "They weren't getting a lot of second looks. When you do that, it's pretty tough for a team to score if they don't get many chances."
A free throw by Lucas Hamm, a pair of charities and a basket by Darren Enns and a 3-point basket by sophomore Elliot Soyez gave Hillsboro an 8-0 start to the second half and its largest lead of the night at 31-12.
By the end of the period, the Lions had whittled the lead back to 33-21. But Hillsboro pushed it to 38-21 with baskets by Hamm and Troy Frick and a free throw from Tyler Kaufman with 5:55 to play.
Lyons crawled to within 40-29 with 4:52 to go on a 3-point basket Payton Griffit, a pair of free throws by Brennan Clark and three free throws from Brett Bieberle after he was fouled on a shot from behind the arc.
But that was close as Lyons would get until the very end of the game when Clark hit two free throws in the final seconds to cut the final margin to 10 points.
Hamm finished as the game's top scorer and rebounder with 13 points and 11 caroms for his eighth double-double of the season.
As a team, the Trojans made 20 of 38 shots from the field (nearly 56 percent) while limiting the Lions to 15 baskets in 45 attempts (33 percent), and only one 3-pointer in 14 tries.
Knoll said he would have liked to see his team finish stronger, but all in all he was pleased with the effort.
"Once the momentum changes it's hard to get back that step we had," he said. "At least we did enough to win, and for the most part played pretty well tonight."
Coming-Hillsboro, seeded fifth in its sub-state with a 10-10 mark, was scheduled to take on fourth-seeded Marion (11-9) at Marion on Tuesday.
The winner of that game will take on the winner of the first-round game between top-seeded Southeast of Saline (19-1) and eighth-seeded Lyons (7-14).
The semifinals game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Halstead. The boys' championship game for a state-tournament berth will tip off at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Halstead.