ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY BRIAN HUXMAN
Nobody said Hillsboro?s game against Smoky Valley last Tuesday night would be an easy because the Trojans had beaten the Viking handily three days earlier in the Trojan Classic.
But nobody said the game would go down to the wire either.
The Trojans built a 10-point halftime lead, then held on for dear life in second half before defeating Smoky Valley 54-50 in Lindsborg.
The game had two distinct story lines.
The most significant was the exceptional play and leadership of Trojan point guard Grant Brubacher.
The second was the amazing number of times the three game officials blew their whistles.
The varsity game produced more than 40 fouls. Include the junior varsity game, worked by the same officiating crew, and more than 90 fouls were called.
Despite the tally, only one player fouled out in the two games.
Controversial officiating aside, Hillsboro won the varsity game in large part because Brubacher stepped up in the absence of senior leader Tyson Ratzlaff, who sat out his second straight game because of a sore foot.
?We were able to maintain our composure in the game,? coach Darrel Knoll said. ?I was pleased with the execution of our offense in the first half, and Grant really did a nice job of hitting some shots when he was open.?
Brubacher led all scorers with 21 points and added three rebounds and four steals.
But the key play of the game came with under two minutes remaining, when Jeremy Loewen hit a jumper on a defensive transition after Smoky Valley had cut the Hillsboro lead to just two points.
Hillsboro?s defense forced 17 Smoky Valley turnovers, but the Trojans coughed up 17 of their own, mostly on traveling violations and fouls.
?I was disappointed with our intensity in the second half,? Knoll said. ?They got some easy baskets in the lane because we didn?t take care of business on the defensive end, but I was pleased with the way Jeremy stepped up.?
Loewen hit two key 3-pointers in the second half of the contest, helping the Trojans keep up with the inside offense from Smoky Valley center Nathan Lindshield, who scored 14 points in the game, most of them in the second half.
The 6-6 Lindshield caused havoc in the middle for Hillsboro throughout the game. Loewen finished with 12 key points for Hillsboro.
?They really came to play because I think they were a little bit embarrassed with the lack of effort they put forth in the tournament game last week against us,? Knoll said of Smoky Valley. ?They played well and executed inside better this time.?
Knoll said he was happy with the win, given the adversity his team was facing.
?Considering we were playing without Tyson again, I thought we did a nice job of really giving the effort, because Smoky Valley played hard too,? he said. ?We did enough to win the game, and so I feel good about getting a win.?
The victory put the Trojans at 8-4 on the season. Hillsboro returned to action yesterday at home against Ellinwood.
For results of the game, call the Free Press Free Line at 947-3363 or check the on-line edition of the Free Press at www.hillsborofreepress. com.