ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro boys weathered a Marion rally in the second quarter, but used solid shooting and ball handling to nail down a 71-53 season-opening win Friday night on the Warriors’ home court.
Hillsboro took an early 8-1 lead on Ross Duerksen’s bucket inside and 3-point bombs from Tyler Weinbrenner and Andy Brubacher. By the end of the quarter, Hillsboro was ahead, 16-11.
After Duerksen scored a layup off a steal to open the second quarter, the Warriors battled back into contention with buckets by Brian Bina and Robert Verbic to cut the lead to 18-15.
Hillsboro’s Layne Frick responded with a jumper in the lane and Weinbrenner added a bucket. But Bina scored in the paint and Alan Vogel grabbed a rebound and scored to close the gap to 22-19 with 5:09 left in the quarter.
After Hillsboro coach Darrel Knoll called a timeout, Weinbrenner nailed two 3-pointers to push the Trojans back to a nine-point margin. From that point on, Hillsboro slowly extended its lead until the final gun.
“We were standing around on offense,” Knoll said about the second quarter. “I thought defensively, we were getting beat to the hole off the dribble. Nobody else would slide and they were dumping down for an easy one.
“The other thing I talked about is that Vogel was just mopping up the boards at that point,” he added. “They were getting second shots and we were fouling them-and we weren’t getting any second shots for ourselves.”
By the end of the half, the Trojans were up by 12, 38-26. They pushed that lead to 19 points, 54-35 in the third quarter on six points from Frick, five from Brubacher and four by Duerksen.
Trojan fouls gave the Warriors an opportunity to get back into the game, but Marion struggled at the free-throw line, hitting only 12-of-28 for the night and missing three straight one-and-one opportunities in the second half.
“Our free throws are the difference,” Marion coach Chris Moddlemog said. “If we make all of our free throws, we lose by two.”
Brubacher led a balanced Trojan scoring arsenal with 16 points, including three of seven 3-point attempts. Weinbrenner added 11 and Duerksen 10.
Stepping up big for Hillsboro was junior Shawn Hughbanks, who scored all of his 10 points in the first half when the Trojans needed a spark.
“I thought Hughbanks played a tremendous game,” Knoll said. “At times I thought we were a little stagnant, especially in the second quarter, and he was getting the back door, he was getting rebounds, he was making steals, and he was getting down the floor for us.”
In all, 10 Trojans scored.
“At times, each one did something to help us maintain the lead or increase it,” Knoll said. “I was really pleased with that.”
Marion was led by Braxton Skiles’ 16 points, eight of which came in the final period. Jason Matz added 11 and Verbic 10, including six in the final frame.
Both coaches thought their teams did some good things over the course of the evening.
“I was real concerned that we might not be able to handle their pressure, and I thought we handled it relatively well,” Moddelmog said. “We didn’t want to give them anything in the paint, but we knew their outside shooters were so good.”
Knoll, meanwhile, was pleased with his team’s offensive effort.
“I thought we did a lot of good things tonight,” he said. “We shot the ball well. Andy had a great game. It wasn’t just his shooting, he moved well, hit the gaps, he did a lot of good things. Weinbrenner at times shot the ball, too. There were a lot of positives out of this game that we’ve got to build on.”
At the same time, both coaches identified some areas for improvement-especially on defense. The Trojans shot a sizzling 61.3 percent inside the arc and were 8-for-21 behind it. Marion shot an impressive 50 percent from the field.
“We have to do a better job defensively,” Moddelmog said. “If we give up 71 points, I don’t think we’ll win too many games.”
Knoll sounded a similar theme.
“I think we need to understand that we’ve got to get a little tougher on defense,” he said. “We fouled them into the game tonight. Every time we had a chance to go on a big run, we’d foul three or four times. We just didn’t work hard enough on defense and got those cheap fouls called.”
Knoll also said his team must improve its rebounding.
“The first half-the second quarter especially-I thought they just ate us up on the boards,” he said. “Sometimes I think it takes a game like this to say, hey, we’ve got to really get out there a little bit harder than we are.
“Overall, though, I was really pleased with the guys. It was a great win.”