Staying hot

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY BRIAN HUXMAN
The last two weeks have probably seemed like an eternity for Hillsboro boys? basketball coach Darrel Knoll as he awaited the return of senior guard Tyson Ratzlaff from a broken foot.

Eternity ended Friday night as the Trojans hosted Lyons in an MCAA match-up. Knoll finally got his star guard back and the Trojans (10-4, 3-1) got a key win, 67-51.

Statistically, Grant Brubacher?s 25-point performance overshadowed Ratzlaff?s return, but Knoll was glad to have his senior back on the floor.

With the game getting tight in the fourth quarter, Knoll called on Ratzlaff, who was resting his foot on the bench, at crunch-time and the athletic swing-man delivered.

Seconds after reentering the game, Ratzlaff buried a 3-pointer, which turned out to be a dagger in the heart of a Lion comeback.

?Tyson said if we needed him in that fourth quarter, he could go back in,? Knoll said. ?He went right back in and hit that three and just did so many things for us.?

Beyond Ratzlaff?s scoring, Knoll noted the energy Ratzlaff brings his team energy on the boards, an area in which the Trojans have been outplayed during Ratzlaff?s absence.

Knoll was pleased with his team?s overall game, citing the play of Nathan Fish on offense, Jeremy Loewen on defense and Jesse Hamm and Scott Winter in the interior.

?For once this year, there was definitely some intensity in that gym and that helped us get out to a nice start,? Knoll said. ?Offensively, we cut well, shot the ball well, and did everything with a lot of intensity in the first quarter.?

During the opening period, Hillsboro put on an incredible shooting display, hitting five of their season high 10 3-pointers on the way to a 26-12 lead by quarter?s end.

Lyons battled their way back into the game behind a strong defensive effort on a half-court trap, and cut the Trojan lead to 11 points at halftime.

Lyons continued their pace in the second half, but Brubacher answered almost every Lions? score.

?I thought Grant played a great game for us tonight,? Knoll said. ?He really came out shooting hot and did a nice job for us breaking the press and really bringing us a lot of intensity.?

Brubacher has averaged more than 20 points a game during Ratzlaff?s absence. Knoll hopes to see that continue.

?Grant is really going to be a key for us the rest of this season,? he said.

Loewen had 10 points for Hillsboro and Fish added nine. Ratzlaff had just five points in his return.

The Trojans returned to action Tuesday night at Hesston. For scores and game information, call the Free Line at 947-3363 or check the Free Press Web site at www. hillsborofreepress.com.

Ellinwood?If Hillsboro was expecting an easy game against Ellinwood last Tuesday night, the Trojans were disappointed.

After jumping to a 15-4 lead in the first quarter, Hillsboro had to hold on for dear life. Key free-throw shooting in the game?s final minutes preserved the 56-47 win.

?It was good to see us make our free throws at the end,? coach Darrel Knoll said. ?We missed a couple earlier in the game, and I didn?t know how we were going to respond.?

Hillsboro trailed 47-46 after Ellinwood?s Mark Panning hit a baseline jumper with 4:22 left, but Grant Brubacher hit both ends of a one-and-one opportunity to give the Trojans the lead for good.

The tone was set early in the fourth quarter when junior guard Nathan Fish, who did not start the contest because of illness, hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put the Trojans up 42-39.

?I can remember at least two times where he hit key threes for us at key times in the game,? Knoll said. ?I thought he did a good job of finding the gaps in the defense tonight and selecting what shots to take and what not to take.?

But Brubacher was the star of the game. He continually made key shots and did the majority of the ball-handling.

?(Grant) really made good decisions all night, and kept us in the game throughout,? Knoll said. ?He did a nice job of running the team.?

Brubacher led Hillsboro with 22 points, while Fish added 13. Guards Jeremy Loewen, Vance Frick and Ross Duerksen each scored five.

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