ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY BRIAN HUXMAN
Jill Hein celebrated a happy birthday Friday night as she led the Hillsboro Trojans girls? basketball team to a 67-44 win over the MCAA Central Division co-champions from Nickerson.
Hein scored 17 points, including three 3-pointers, in the regular-season finale.
After a slow start, Hillsboro outscored Nickerson 39-23 in the second half.
?Our defense definitely played a big role in the game today,? coach Becky Carlson said. ?I thought we did a nice job of spreading out the floor. We knew their strength was inside, and we tried to keep them away from the basket as much as possible.?
After leading by seven at halftime, the Trojans saw their lead cut to just two points shortly after the break.
But Angela Kroeker, who scored 19 points, and Hein led Hillsboro to a 19-7 run to end the third quarter. Shannon Kroeker capped the run with put-back with less than a minute to play in the period.
?I thought everybody did a great job tonight,? Carlson said. ?They were playing really well and we hit that run. Defensively, we really cranked it up, and they didn?t know quite what to do. They are used to having that low-post fronted, and we just decided we would play behind her and make her shoot over us, and they really struggled after that.?
Leading by 14 heading into the fourth quarter, Hillsboro expanded it with a 3-pointer by Hein with 6:13 remaining and another Hein trey halfway through the period.
?Nickerson is notorious for hitting the offensive glass, and I thought we did a really good job tonight of really blocking out and being aggressive underneath,? Carlson said. ?That was a very physical team, and we did a good job of sticking with it.?
Angela and Shannon Kroeker kept the Trojans in the game by combining with 20 first-half points. Angela finished with 19 to lead Hillsboro and Shannon scored 11.
The Trojans (17-3) began sub-state play Tuesday as the No. 2 seed. They faced Ellsworth, seeded seventh. Results of the game are available on the Free Press online edition.
Ellinwood?For the first time in awhile, the Hillsboro girls didn?t wait until the second half to assert themselves. The Trojans jumped in front of the Eagles 9-0 in the first three minutes and were never really threatened on the way to a 64-46 road win last Tuesday night.
?That?s what we needed to do,? coach Becky Carlson said of the early run. ?The last couple of games we haven?t been as aggressive as we needed to be from the start.?
Once they scored, Ellinwood kept pace until the middle of the second quarter, when Hillsboro went on an 11-3 run to lengthen their lead to 29-16. A late surge pulled the Eagles to within seven at halftime, 31-24.
But Hillsboro squelched any thought of an upset by outscoring Ellinwood 11-1 over the first five minutes of the third quarter. By quarter?s end, Hillsboro led by 19, 50-31.
A bucket by Megan Thomas and four free throws by Terri Keeler pulled Ellinwood to within 13, 52-39 with six minutes to play. But over the next two minutes, the Trojans? Julie Hett countered with two free throws and a bucket and Amber Hefley canned a 3-pointer to give Hillsboro a 20-point lead, its biggest of the night,
Angela Kroeker led Hillsboro with 15 points, but she had a lot of support. Hett came off the bench to score a season-high 12 points and added nine rebounds and three steals.
In all, seven Trojans scored five points or more, as Carlson rotated her starters and reserves throughout the game.
?They all played well tonight,? she said.
With the win, the Trojans won the MCAA Mid Division title outright with a final 7-1 record.
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY BRIAN HUXMAN