Boys expect to fly above expectations

Playing in a league with at least three other Class 3A giants, and coming off a 15-8 season with only two starters returning, Hillsboro head coach Darrel Knoll knows this year’s boys’ team is flying under the radar of high public expectations.

He doesn’t mind.

At the same time, he doesn’t expect to stay there as the season progresses.

“We plan on being good,” Knoll said. “We plan on competing as well as we can. This way we can do it from not a high-pressure standpoint.”

The Mid Central Activities Association will have its share of tough teams this winter. Knoll expects Wichita Collegiate to be ranked first in Class 3A in preseason. Halstead, with superstar Dennis Latimer in tow, and Hesston, with talent and depth returning from last season, should be right on the Spartans’ heels.

Throw in non-league foes Belleville and Thomas Moore Prep in this year’s Trojan Classic, plus a premiere matchup with 5A power Great Bend Dec. 8, and the Trojans have a formidable task ahead.

“We’ve played competitive schedules in the past, but we’ve always felt like we were right in the middle of that mix,” Knoll said. “I still feel we can be in the middle of that mix. But the one thing that’s different this year is I don’t think we’ll be one of the ones picked to win the whole thing.”

The Trojans lost starters Tyson Ratzlaff and Jesse Hamm to graduation; senior Scott Winter chose not to play this year.

Beyond those three, senior Jeremy Loewen, an honorable-mention pick last season at guard, broke his shooting hand during the Trojans’ last football game and will be out through Christmas break.

Even with that in the mix, Knoll likes what he sees on the practice court so far.

“The guys who have come out this year have come out with a really positive attitude,” Knoll said. “They’ve been working really hard and I think they all see they have a chance to step in and be one of the guys to play varsity with so many spots being open. Practice has been fairly competitive and pretty upbeat.”

Heading the roster for the Trojans is Grant Brubacher, a 5-9 senior point guard who led the team last year in scoring (15.4), assists (4.0) and free-throw shooting (79.8 percent). Brubacher was a unanimous first-team pick in the MCAA and received state recognition from several area newspapers.

“Grant is really solid,” Knoll said. “At least one of the starters we have back is a point guard who can run the offense, handle the ball and do things most of people in our league can’t. That’s a good start.”

Knoll is looking for some support from his returning seniors, including Nathan Fish (6-0), who started much of last year and averaged 7.1 points a game; Garrett Call, who started early in the season, then added spark off the bench as the season progressed; and Michael Hagen (6-2), who didn’t see much varsity action a year ago but may this season.

“He’s grown a little bit,” Knoll said of Hagen. “We’ve moved him more to an inside person and we think he can contribute there.”

Knoll has a good group of juniors ready to step in, too. Heading that list is Ross Duerksen, a 6-0 shooting guard who saw significant varsity action after coming back from a wrist injury at the start of the season.

Also looking strong in practice are Adam Woods, the Trojans’ biggest inside presence at 6-4, Layne Frick and Phillip Terrell. Adam Driggers may work his way into the mix, too.

Also battling for varsity time are four sophomores: Andy Brubacher, who played in 17 games last year as a freshman, Tyler Weinbrenner, Shawn Hughbanks and Dustin Jost.

“I’m hoping we can find nine guys who can rotate in and play a ton,” Knoll said. “There’s always a playing time issue because there are only 32 minutes in a game. If you play too many more than nine or 10, then nobody gets to play very much.”

Speed and athleticism will be the Trojans’ strength this season and a lack of size in the paint will be their biggest challenge, Knoll said.

“We’re not as big as I’d like to be inside, but we have guys who can play inside,” he said. “We just have to make sure we’re doing things right basketball-wise, compete hard, and I think we can do OK in there.”

Look for the Trojans to pressure the ball on defense and then push the ball up the court when they get the chance.

“We started off in practice with some fast-break work,” Knoll said. “I’m really trying to impress upon them a pressure defense-varying how we pressure, whether it’s soft pressure or hard pressure, so we can keep the other team off balance.

“If we can use our speed and quickness to our advantage, that’s one of the things we like to do,” he added. “But we also have to be able to play a half-court game, because a lot of teams try to slow it down on us.”

With every team, success on the court depends on the desire and determination of the players. Knoll likes what he’s seen in that regard.

“One thing we addressed in the off season was that we were looking for players who love the game, who play with a lot of intensity and desire, who are going to work hard, and are not going to back down when it looks like somebody else is going to be as good or better than they are.

“As far as I’m concerned, if we can get that out of the guys, that’s where our success will come from,” he said. “The wins and losses will take care of themselves.”

Knoll, who has compiled a 234-56 record in 12 seasons at HHS, is more familiar with wins. He’s expecting his share again this year, even with the stiff schedule.

“This team has real potential to be good,” he said. “I can tell that guys are there to play. That’s the starting point. And I can also tell that a few of the guys have really worked hard in the off season.

“It looks to me that they all have the desire to succeed-for the team as much as for themselves.”

The Trojans open their season Friday night at home against intra-county rival Marion. The boys’ varsity game will begin around 8 p.m.


VARSITY/JV: Grant Brubacher (12), 5-9; Andy Brubacher (10), 5-9; Eric Bartel (10), 5-11; Peter Richert (11), 6-0; Layne Frick (11), 6-3; Jeremy Loewen (12), 6-0; Dustin Jost (10), 5-9; Ross Duerksen (11), 6-1; Tyler Weinbrenner (10), 5-8; Steven Chisholm (10), 6-1; Michael Hagen (12), 6-4; Kris Jones (10), 5-10; Nathan Fish (12), 6-0; Toby Trimborn (12), 6-3; Ben Walker (10), 5-10; Garrett Call (12), 6-2; Jonathan Regier (11), 6-0; Alan Yoder (10), 5-10; Jason Pschigoda (10), 6-1; Adam Driggers (11), 6-3; Sasha Hechler (12), 6-0; Adam Woods (11), 6-4; Phillip Terrell (11), 6-0; Shawn Hughbanks (10), 6-0.

FRESHMEN: Michael Bookless, 5-9; Tyler Peachey, 6-1; Derek Conrad, 5-7; Derek Mayfield, 5-8; Aaron Yoder, 5-11; Michael Fisher, 5-5; Kyle Jilka, 5-8; Brodie Unrau, 5-8; Jared Fish, 5-10; Tody Berg, 6-2.

Coaches: Head, Darrel Knoll; Asst., Darrel Kohlman, Max Heinrichs.

Trainer: Scott Nuss.

Cheerleaders: LeShell Bell, Chelsey D’Albini, Risa Fadenrecht, Amy Goertzen, Amber Jost, Jenny Mohn, Tara Schultz, Bridget Thiessen.

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