ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY BRIAN HUXMAN
After suffering through a tough loss against one of the better teams in the state, Hillsboro rebounded Saturday night against Smoky Valley in the third-place game of the Trojan Classic.
Hillsboro used a strong defensive effort to jump to an early lead and never looked back in defeating Smoky Valley, 60-45.
The most amazing statistic of the game came from Tyson Ratzlaff. The senior sat out the contest with a broken bone in his foot.
Coach Darrel Knoll said he is proud of how his team responded playing without its floor leader.
?The guys stepped it up and really responded positively to an adverse situation tonight playing without Tyson Ratzlaff and C.J. Hill,? Knoll said. ?I thought we did a nice job having guys step into the roles they can play.?
Jump-starting Hillsboro early in the game was the play of junior guard Jeremy Loewen, who hit two three-pointers in the first three minutes and played solid defense throughout the game.
?I thought Jeremy Loewen played a great game tonight,? Knoll said. ?He pressured the lanes all night and played really quick on defense the whole game. He really played like he was having fun out there and that is always a positive thing to see.?
Hillsboro jumped to a 20-5 lead in the first quarter and left nothing but hands in the faces of Smoky Valley players on the defensive end in the second quarter as well.
Hillsboro, using its quickness on defense, extended its lead to 39-16 by the end of the first half.
?I thought we came out with great intensity on defense and that was the key to the game,? Knoll said. ?Inside, I thought we played really well on (6-6 Nathan Lindshield) and shut him down for the most part, especially in the first half.?
The second half was mostly cruise control for the Trojans, who extended their lead in the third quarter with several breakaway steals and layups.
Grant Brubacher put together another solid effort, scoring 18 points with five assists and four steals.
?Grant played another great game tonight as well,? Knoll said of his junior star. ?He stepped into a leadership role and did a nice job of helping to break their press.?
Hillsboro was outscored in the second half 29-21, but maintained the lead with incredible shooting from the free throw line.
The Trojans were 12-for12 from the charity stripe in the game and hit over 55 percent of their shots from the field.
Loewen led the way there, too, hitting seven-of-eight shots from the floor as well as his only free throw. He scored 17 points.
Brubacher was six-of-six from the foul line.
Hillsboro also got a nice performance from sophomore guard Ross Duerksen, who scored four points and was the Trojans main ball-handler except for Brubacher.
?I thought Ross did some nice things for us tonight,? Knoll said. ?He did a good job of penetrating when it was there and made some nice passes off the penetration.?
Belleville?Hillsboro fell behind early and could never recover against the No. 2 team in Class 3A Friday night, losing to the Buffalos 58-44.
Belleville used a balanced attack with four players scoring in double-figures. Sophomore Jeremy Thayer led the way with 15 points.
Grant Brubacher was the lone bright spot for Hillsboro, scoring 17 points and dishing out four assists. He also pulled in five of Hillsboro?s eight total rebounds.
Hillsboro was manhandled on the board, 27-8.
Loewen was the only other Trojan to score in double figures with 10 points.
Belleville went on to win this year?s tournament with a 52-46 win over Inman, the No. 1 ranked team in Class 2A. It was the Teutons? first loss of the season.