ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The turning point of Hillsboro’s 53-20 win over Wichita Collegiate Friday night may have been when Hannah Houlik, the Spartans’ 5-10 post and primary scorer, showed up at courtside on crutches.
Without her, Collegiate was undersized and overmatched and the Trojans simply pulled away from the visitors as the game went along.
“They played hard, they didn’t play bad defense and they took good shots,” Trojan coach Becky Carlson said of the Spartans. “But without an inside game, it’s hard to play.”
Hillsboro didn’t shoot the ball well in the first half, but still led 10-5 after one quarter and 18-7 by halftime.
Once more, the third quarter was pivotal for the Trojans, who turned up their defensive pressure, forced some turnovers and scored on easier shots close to the basket.
After Collegiate’s Casey Pickering started the quarter with a 3-pointer, the Trojans reeled off 18 unanswered points before the buzzer sounded and put the game on ice with a 36-10 lead.
Shannon Kroeker and Angela Herzet shared game-high honors with 13 points apiece. As a team HHS shot 20 of 59 from the floor for 34 percent, but only 3-of-16 from behind the arc.
Herzet and Jill Hein each pulled down 10 rebounds for the Trojans. As a team, Hillsboro snagged 42 boards.
With the win, the Trojans improved their record to 13-1 overall and 5-0 in Mid Division play.
HHS 33, Haven 29
Hillsboro’s quest for respect took a big step forward Tuesday night when the Trojans beat state-ranked Haven, 33-29, in a showdown of MCAA division leaders at Brown Gymnasium.
Haven came into the game with a 10-2 season record, a 3-0 mark in the Central Division, and a No. 5 ranking in Class 4A.
Hillsboro came in at 11-1 overall, 4-0 in the Mid Division, fresh off a championship win over Class 5A Salina South in the Southeast Invitational Tournament-and no media ranking.
“I didn’t know what else it was going to take to get us in there,” coach Becky Carlson said. “Hopefully this will.”
The two teams were evenly matched. Each played excellent half-court defense and each found most of its offensive production coming from one player.
For Haven, the player was Laura Frees, a 5-10 senior who scored 10 of her game-high 17 points in the first quarter-all but one bucket on drives into the paint.
Fortunately for Hillsboro, Jill Hein rediscovered her shooting touch and countered with six first-quarter points and 16 for the game.
Haven was ahead 13-6 when Angela Herzet chipped in two free throws and Amber Hefley hit a 3-pointer to close the gap to 13-11 at quarter’s end.
Defense prevailed through the next two quarters. Both teams passed the ball patiently in search of openings, but couldn’t find many.
Hillsboro all but shut down Frees and her teammates, allowing only four points through the second and third quarters.
Meanwhile, Hein scored five more points in each quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers. Dionne Jost added a bucket late in the third quarter to give the Trojans a 23-17 lead heading into the final stanza.
But Haven made a fourth-quarter charge, sandwiching a 3-pointer by Hillsboro’s Shannon Kroeker with four points before and after to close the gap to 26-25 with 5:43 to play.
Over the next two minutes, the Trojans got big buckets from subs Andrea Peachey and Hefley, then starter Julie Hett hit a 15-footer for her first bucket of the game to push the lead back to seven, 32-25.
Two more Haven baskets, aided by Trojan turnovers, cut the margin to 32-29 with 3:02 to go.
After a Haven timeout with 1:19 left, the Wildcats committed four quick fouls in an attempt to get the Trojans to the foul line on a one-and-one.
Instead, they got the ball back when an errant pass by Hein sailed out of bounds with 36.4 seconds left.
Two Haven timeouts later, Kami McCurry threw up a 3-pointer that missed the mark. Herzet grabbed the rebound, was fouled with 3.4 seconds left, then made the first free throw on a one-and-one to put the game out of reach.
On a night when good defense ruled, the Trojans still made 13 of their 30 shots from the field for 43 percent. They added three free throws on only six attempts.
“Haven’s defense is excellent,” Carlson said. “I think both of us executed our offense, too. We looked for good shots, we took good shots.”
Hein, who had struggled with her shot since the Christmas break, was on the mark against Haven, hitting 5-of-7 from inside the arc and 2-of-4 from behind it.
“They gave her the shots, and it was important tonight that whoever had them, made them,” Carlson said. “She got herself some good looks at the basket.”