ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
With her usual scorers struggling for points Tuesday night against rival Wichita Collegiate, Coach Becky Carlson got an early Christmas present from Julie Hett and Amber Hefley.
The Trojans’ senior starter and junior reserve tossed in 24 points, including 14 during a critical third-quarter surge that fueled Hillsboro to a 44-35 win in Wichita.
The victory gave Carlson’s team a 5-1 record at the Christmas break and a 2-0 mark in the Mid Division of the MCAA.
“I think their goal was to stop (Shannon) Kroeker, (Angela) Herzet and (Jill) Hein,” Carlson said. “The other girls stepped up and that’s what we needed.”
The Trojan threesome came into the game averaging just 35.6 points a game for a team averaging 46.8. Against Collegiate, the trio managed only 16.
“I told the others, ‘They’re going to leave one of you open because they’re running that triangle and two,'” Carlson said. “I said, ‘You guys have to shoot until you make it.'”
Fortunately, it didn’t take long.
With Hillsboro trailing 24-18 a minute into the third quarter, Hett scored her first bucket, an lay-in on a nice pass from Hein. A minute later Hett hit a 12-footer along the baseline, was fouled in the process, then canned the free throw.
After Hefley knocked down a 2-pointer two minutes later, Hett scored another bucket with 2:16 to go, then converted a Trojan steal into a basket with 1:51 to play. Suddenly, Hillsboro had a 29-24 lead.
After Collegiate’s Hannah Houlik hit one of two free throws, Hefley capped the Trojan run with a 3-pointer with 50 seconds to play in the quarter.
Houlik countered with a 2-pointer with one second left in the quarter to cut Hillsboro’s lead to 32-27 at the break.
Hett added two more baskets to open the fourth quarter to give Hillsboro its biggest lead of the game, 36-27, with 5:18 to go.
Hillsboro kept Collegiate at bay the rest of the way, but could have made the task a lot easier if they had hit their free throws. The Trojans converted only four of 13 opportunities over the last four minutes of play. Two of the misses were on the front end of a one-and-one.
“I think we lost our focus when we pulled ahead a little bit,” Carlson said. “I wasn’t very pleased.”
Still, Carlson liked the way her team came out in the second half.
“I told them at half time that it looked like Collegiate wanted to win more than we did,” she said. “In the second half, it didn’t look like that at all.”
Only three players scored for Collegiate during the game. Houlik, a 5-10 senior, led all scorers with 16 and Casey Pickering, a 5-5 senior, scored 13.
The Spartans’ other key scorer, point guard Katie Pilgreen, tallied six in the first half but was shut out after intermission.
“I was so pleased with the way our guards played against theirs,” Carlson said. “We just stopped them.”
Hett broke double figures for the second time this season, finishing with 13. Hefley’s 11 points off the bench put her in double figures for the first time in varsity action.
“I’ve been waiting for her to do that all year long,” Carlson said. “I knew she would. She stepped up in that second half and made a 3-pointer and a 2-pointer. Boy, that made a big difference in the game tonight.”