Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 24 January 2012 15:28
The Hillsboro girls lost the opportunity to win their first Trojan Classic championship Saturday with a disappointing 47-29 loss to Riley County.
The game was billed as a showdown between the two top-ranked and undefeated teams in Class 3A.
But for a true showdown, both teams need to show up. Riley County held up its end of the billing, but Hillsboro looked far less than normal on both ends of the court.
Credit goes in part to the Falcons’ play, but the Trojans missed open shots all night long and lacked their usual intensity on the defensive end.
Even with all of that, the first half was a virtual standoff. The Falcons clung to a meager 5-4 lead after one quarter and a slim 20-17 advantage at intermission.
The encouraging news for Trojan fans was that their team was still in the thick of things even after shooting 33 percent (8-24) from the floor. The discouraging news was that Hillsboro’s shooting would deteriorate further in the second half.
Slow starts have not been unusual for Hillsboro this season, but this time the Trojans never pulled out of it. Riley started the third period with a 9-0 run before Hillsboro’s Addie Lackey finally scored at the 4:28 mark to break the streak.
Riley’s Kelly Thomson, who led all scorers with 22 points, responded with her third NBA-distance three-point basket of the night as the Falcons finished the quarter with a 5-1 spurt for a 34-21 lead at the final break.
Getting increasingly desperate for points as time slipped away, the Trojans put up increasingly more difficult shots, making only three of 14 attempts in the final frame as the shooting percentage in the second half slipped to 17 percent. Tena Loewen finished the game with 12 points—10 in the first half—and Lackey added 10. Only four Trojans managed to score.
“We weren’t aggressive,” coach Nathan Hiebert said about the offense. “It looked like we were hoping someone else would do it. I was kind of disappointed in that. We needed someone to step up and lead.
“And that wasn’t the defensive intensity we need to bring,” he added. “We’ve beaten some good teams, and we’ve played a lot better defense than we played tonight.”
HHS 57, Wamego 46
Callie Serene stepped up with a career-high 24 points to help the Trojans overcome a 26-point performance by Wamego’s Kaylee Page in the semifinals.
Even with Serene’s standout production, Hillsboro showed that a diversified attack can prevail against on offense limited to two talented players.
Kaylee, who plays like a guard at 6-foot-1, and sister Lanie, 6-0, accounted for 38 of Wamego’s 46 points and 43 of the Red Raiders’ 51 shots from the floor. Only one other player scored for Wamego.
Kaylee Page’s point production was impressive, but equally impressive—though less obvious on the surface—was Hillsboro’s defense that limited Page to 8-for-30 shooting from the field.
“We knew she wasn’t bashful about shooting, but we wanted to keep frustrating her,” coach Nathan Hiebert said, crediting Tena Loewen for limiting Page’s effectiveness.
Meanwhile, Serene complemented her 5-for-8 shooting from beyond the arc with several baskets while driving the lane.
“Last year she was more or less a three-point spot-up shooter,” Hiebert said. “We told her, if you want to make it really tough on teams, give a ball fake and go past people.”
Key to Serene’s effectiveness was that the Trojan senior had scoring support from six teammates, including Addie Lackey, who chipped in 13 points.
Four points off the bench by Courtney Weber in the final 1:32 of the opening quarter helped Hillsboro to a 14-9 lead at the break. Wamego, which came into the tournament ranked seventh in Class 4A, narrowed the gap to 27-25 by halftime, with Kaylee Page scoring 17 points by intermission.
Hillsboro took control of the game with an 18-4 surge over the first 6:43 of the third quarter for a 45-29 bulge.
With her team trailing 45-35, Kaylee Page started the final quarter with a three. But Serene countered with one at the 4:42 mark, then hit another one with 2:41 left. At that point HHS was comfortably in control at 51-42. As a team, Hillsboro shot 20-for-46 (44 percent) for the game, including an impressive 9-for-15 (60 percent) from behind the three-point line.
“We played with a lot of confidence tonight and got contributions from a lot of girls,” Hiebert said. “We talked before the game to come out and just play ball. If you’ve got a shot, knock it down.”
HHS 52, Goodland 13
The Goodland girls competed well early in the contest, trailing only 5-4 midway through the first period.
But a putback basket by Tena Loewen at the 3:21 mark ignited a 25-5 surge that ended at the halftime buzzer. The assault was fueled in large part by 12 Cowgirl turnovers over the same time span.
Krista Reimer chipped in eight points for HHS and Maci Schlehuber drained a pair of three-pointers for six points.
The same scenario extended into the third quarter as the Trojans rolled with a 16-2 surge aided by the defense with 12 more Goodland turnovers.With the score 46-11 at the final break, the entire fourth quarter was played with a continuous clock. Loewen finished with 11 points and Reimer 10 as nine Trojans contributed points in the 52-13 victory. Hillsboro finished with 21-for-53 shooting for 40 percent accuracy after a slow shooting start.
“I was pleased with t he shots we got the first few possessions, but they just didn’t go down,” coach Nathan Hiebert said.
Meanwhile, Goodland made only four of 25 shots for 16 percent. The Cowgirls committed 27 turnovers against the Trojan pressure.
“I was very pleased,” Hiebert said about his team’s defense. “The defensive intensity was good, we were focused on what they were doing.”
Coming—Hillsboro (12-1) has no games scheduled for this week. The Trojans will return to action Jan. 31 when they host Hesston in a league matchup.