ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY BRIAN HUXMAN
Basketball fans were treated to a classic seesaw battle between two evenly matched teams Friday night. Fortunately, Hillsboro hit just enough free throws down the stretch, and Jeremy Loewen came up with a key steal late in the game to give the Trojans a 57-54 win over Sterling.
?It was a big win for us,? coach Darrel Knoll said. ?We hadn?t won a game in a week and a half. Sterling is a great team that took us down to the wire and really did a nice job of making this a close game.
?If things go their way little bit, they could really make some noise in 2A state (tournament competition),? Knoll added.
Grant Brubacher once again led the Trojan cause, scoring 21 points and sinking six of seven free throws in the the final two minutes to hold off a late Sterling rally.
Hillsboro trailed 37-33 heading into the final minute of the third quarter, but a jumper by Jeremy Loewen and a running 3-pointer by Brubacher at the buzzer put the Trojans back on top 38-37.
Brubacher then scored the first two buckets of the fourth quarter and Loewen added another basket to complete an 11-0 run which put Hillsboro up for good, 44-39.
After a Sterling bucket, Ross Duerksen gave the Trojans their largest advantage, 48-39, with back-to-back baskets.
But Sterling didn?t fold.
Senior Daniel Smith led the charge with consecutive 3-pointers to cut the Hillsboro lead to three points.
After the two teams traded baskets, Smith hit his third 3-pointer of the quarter with 1:12 remaining to cut Hillsboro?s lead to 54-53.
Brubacher hit two free throws with 51 seconds left and Loewen got his decisive steal as the Trojans escaped with the win.
?What a performance by Smith,? Knoll said. ?He made it really hard on us. You step up and make threes like that at the end of the game, you are playing to win. What a great performance by a great player.?
The resurgent Loewen finished the contest with 17 points, a key for the Hillsboro.
?(Loewen) seemed to play a lot more like himself tonight,? Knoll said. ?He played within himself and really cut down the turnovers he?s had the past couple of games. I was pleased with his performance.?
Knoll said another key was the play off the bench of freshman Andy Brubacher, who did not score but provided ball handling and stability for the Trojans.
?I thought for the second game in a row, Andy Brubacher game in and did a nice job for us,? he said. ?He handled the ball well, played good defense and did some things when we needed them.?
The win improves the Trojans? record to 12-6. Hillsboro returned to action Tuesday night at Ellinwood. For results, check the Free Press online edition at old.hillsborofreepress.com.
Collegiate?In a rematch of traditional heavyweights, Wichita Collegiate reinforced its ascension to the MCAA division crown?at least for a game?as Trojans fell to the Spartans 53-48.
As it did in its victory over Hillsboro earlier this season, Collegiate, ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, used its mass-substitution strategy to wear down the Trojans, subbing five players at once.
?We competed really hard tonight,? coach Darrel Knoll said. ?We have been talking about that a lot lately. How much do we want it? Tonight, we really came out and played with a lot of tenacity and a lot of desire. You just have to take your hat off to Collegiate for winning this game.?
The key play of the game came late in the fourth quarter. After freshman Andy Brubacher connected on both ends of a one-and-one free-throw opportunity to bring the Trojans to within 43-41, Collegiate junior David Morse buried a 3-pointer with Brubacher in his face to give the Spartans a five-point advantage with 2:29 left.
?I thought that three by Morse was a huge shot,? Knoll said. ?We never really recovered from that.?
Ross Duerksen made big plays down the stretch to keep Hillsboro close, hitting a jumper at 1:34 and a pair of free throws at 1:02 to cut the Collegiate advantage to 47-45.
But Collegiate hit its free throws when it counted, including three of four from Brett Sweeney in the final 35 seconds, to pull away for the win.
?We did a good job of staying with it down the stretch,? Knoll said. ?But offensively, we had some guys out of position a little bit and maybe panicked a little bit and took some shots when we didn?t need to.?
A surprise spark for the Trojans came from Andy Brubacher, who hit seven of eight free throws and did his share of ball handling.
?When Andy came in, we quit turning the ball over,? Knoll said. ?He and Grant did a nice job of handling the ball and really making some things happen.?
Grant Brubacher led Hillsboro with 16 points, while Duerksen had eight.