Foiled by a Finch

Hillsboro coach Becky Carlson?s quest for a dream season ended sooner than hoped Thursday night when the Trojans headed home from the Class 3A state tournament after an opening-round defeat at the hands of Smith Center, 59-48.

?We have a lot of young girls on the team who struggled; they haven?t played in games like this,? Carlson said afterward. ?That?s not to take anything away from what Smith Center did. They played a great game and were just a little more prepared for this atmosphere than we were.?

Especially Dayna Finch. The Smith Center 5-7 senior, who entered the contest averaging almost 28 points per game, finished with 34.

When Hillsboro?s Angela Kroeker got into early foul trouble, Finch took over the first quarter. But Carlson said it wasn?t that Kroeker stopped playing aggressive defense.

?(Finch) just stepped up her game,? Carlson said. ?She is a great basketball player. She hit some tough shots and was really ready for what the game brought.?

After leading by six points in the second quarter, 26-20, the Trojans wilted under Smith Center?s defensive pressure and trailed at intermission, 32-26.

?We just didn?t go to the ball,? Carlson said. ?We didn?t make it to the middle of the floor. We just weren?t as aggressive tonight in the first half as we usually are.?

The let-up cost the Trojans.

After Kroeker hit a jumper in the lane off a defensive steal to give Hillsboro their 26-20 lead, Smith Center took control.

Finch hit a tough shot under the basket, slicing through the arms of Trojan defenders, to cut the Hillsboro lead to four.

She then was fouled after a Hillsboro turnover and hit both free throws to make it a two-point game.

Hillsboro then committed three consecutive turnovers. A Finch jumper with 1:20 left in the first half gave Smith Center a 30-26 lead.

The Trojans refused to call a timeout, and Smith Center ended the first half with a Finch jumper at the buzzer, giving the Lady Red their 32-26 lead.

?That?s just the way things go sometimes when you?re tight,? Carlson said. ?You just can?t move the way you would like, and we didn?t move well to end that first half.?

Unfortunately for the Trojans, the second half began much as the first ended.

Hillsboro opened with the basketball but could not convert. Smith Center?s Heather Hill hit a jumper to push their advantage to eight.

?We would have like to have come out and change things around in the second half,? Carlson said. ?They definitely were more aggressive than we were tonight.?

Smith Center built what turned out to be an insurmountable lead in the fourth quarter behind Finch.

The all-state senior hit a jumper from the right wing to begin the quarter.

After a couple of down minutes by both teams, Finch found Hill wide open for a layup with 4:08 remaining to give the Lady Red a 50-39 lead.

On Hillsboro?s ensuing possession, Finch stole a pass by sophomore Shannon Kroeker and took the ball all the way to the basket for a layup, giving Smith Center a 52-30 advantage.

The Trojans made one last charge. Angela Kroeker missed a jumper in the lane, but point guard Jill Hein was there for the put-back, cutting the lead to 11.

After getting a rare defensive stop, the Trojans capitalized when Shannon Kroeker hit a 3-pointer on the right wing to cut the deficit to 52-44.

But Hillsboro would get no closer as Finch scored six points in the final two minutes to squelch the rally.

The Trojans struggled offensively all night, something Carlson attributed to nerves and inexperience.

Hillsboro was led by their senior star, Angela Kroeker, who scored 21 points. Hein added nine and Shannon Kroeker seven.

Seniors Sara Janzen and Heather Matz ended their careers with four points each.

?We did have a good season,? Carlson said after the game. ?We have a lot of young players on this team. I think if you would have asked anyone at the end of last year, they would not have thought we were going to have the success we did have this year.?

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