ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
How sweet it is when a plan comes together.
Just as the play was designed seconds earlier, senior Layne Frick took a pass from teammate Adam Woods and nailed a 15-footer as the buzzer sounded, giving the Hillsboro Trojans a dramatic 57-55 win over their Class 5A foes from Great Bend Friday at Brown Gymnasium.
“That was a great way to end the game for us,” coach Darrel Knoll said. “I thought we kept our composure. At times it seemed like we were on the verge of really giving it up.”
Indeed, scoring seven unanswered points to open the fourth quarter, the Panthers established their biggest lead of the game, 48-42.
But, following a Trojan timeout, Hillsboro’s Tyler Weinbrenner nailed one 2-pointer and a couple of 3-pointers to pull the home team to within three, 53-50.
After Great Bend’s Tyler Manwarren drove the baseline for a bucket-his third baseline bucket of the quarter-Frick took over the game. The 6-4 senior scored in the paint with 2:13 to play, then, after a Panther turnover, hit a 3-pointer with 1:24 left to tie the game at 55.
The Trojans regained the ball after the Panthers’ Jermaine Barnett fired a rare miss, called a timeout with 50.6 seconds left, then worked the clock down to 16.7 seconds before calling another timeout to set up the final shot.
“The play was for Layne first, then whoever would be coming off the secondary pick,” Knoll said. “I think they were trying to foul us to stop the clock. But they didn’t get the foul down, and we ended up getting a good shot off. Woods made a good decision.”
The Trojans got off to a strong start. Weinbrenner scored the Trojans’ first seven points in the game, then Shawn Hughbanks and Dustin Jost came off the bench and combined for eight points to push the Trojan lead to 15-8 by quarter’s end.
The Panthers closed the margin immediately with six unanswered points to start the second quarter and eventually slipped ahead, 26-25, at intermission.
With the visitors leading, 32-30, three minutes into the third quarter, Frick came alive for the Trojans, sandwiching a tough five-footer with a pair of 3-pointers to give the Trojans a 38-34 lead.
Jost came off the bench once more to nail a 3-pointer, then added a free throw off a steal and foul to make the score 42-41 heading into the final period.
Knoll praised his team’s offensive effort, but was particularly pleased with Frick’s leadership in the second half.
“I thought he did a much better job of looking to be a leader and a scorer,” Knoll said.
Jost’s contributions off the bench were all the more significant because the junior had injured his ankle against Chase County and was questionable for this game.
“He did some really nice stuff for us,” Knoll said. “That was a big spark.”
Knoll felt his team’s grit offset some soft spots in their game, such as setting some weak screens and not moving the ball early.
“It was a great win because I
didn’t feel we played our best game by any means,” Knoll said. “I didn’t feel we played like ourselves-and we were still able to come out with the win. We made the big plays at key times, and I told the guys in the locker room that I thought we showed a lot of character to come back (in the fourth quarter).”
Weinbrenner led the Trojans with 20 points with four 3-pointers, Frick added 17 with three 3-pointers, and Jost 10 with one 3. As a team, the Trojans shot 53.5 percent from the field, including 8-of-14 from behind the arc.
Great Bend, scoring most of their points inside, finished with 55.8 percent shooting, but were only 3-of-7 from the free-throw line.
Knoll said the game was a definite confidence builder.
“That was the one thing I wanted to tell them (after the game),” he said. “We are a good team, and we’ve got to go out and play like it. I think (the win) helped our confidence a ton. I think we’ll start to believe in ourselves a little more.”
Chase County-Hillsboro was slow out of the starting gate, but found its stride midway through the first quarter and literally ran away from the Bulldogs last Tuesday, 88-55, in the Trojans’ home opener.
With Chase County leading, 6-4, Ross Duerksen hit a pair of free throws with 5:34 left in the first quarter to tie the game, then put the Trojans on top for good 30 seconds later with a basket low in the paint.
By the end of the period, Hillsboro was up, 23-10, and, quite literally, the Trojans were off to the races. Keying off its defense, Hillsboro’s fast break slipped into road gear. By the time the dust cleared at intermission, the Trojans were leading comfortably, 47-22.
When the Trojans eased off defensively in the third quarter, the Bulldogs battled to a 21-20 stalemate. But Hillsboro, playing mostly with reserves, came back strong again in the fourth quarter to push the margin to 84-46 with 3:11 to go.
Coach Darrel Knoll said he was pleased with the improvement his team showed from its season opener against Marion.
“We still got caught trailing sometimes, and we have things we need to do better, but it was a much-improved effort,” he said. “I thought we were much more intent on getting the job done tonight.”
Knoll said he had emphasized the importance of sprinting up the court on offense.
“We had some times when we didn’t, but we’d call time out, get some fresh legs in there, get up the court, and we got easy baskets out of it,” he said. “That’s something we need to do.
“That doesn’t mean we’re going to get a layup off every team, but what it means is we’re going to force them to run back,” he added. “They’re going to have to be in shape to play us, or they’re going to wear down and we’ll have the upper hand in the end.”
The fast-break baskets contributed to the Trojans’ blistering 72 shooting percent from inside the arc. They made three of nine 3-point attempts.
Layne Frick led a balanced Trojan attack with 18 points, shooting 7-of-8 from the field and 4-of-4 from the line. Tyler Weinbrenner added 15 points, including 2-of-2 3-point attempts, and Duerksen finished with 13 points with a perfect 6-for-6 from inside the arc.
All 13 varsity players got into the game and 12 of them scored.
“With everybody playing some good minutes tonight, and scoring 88 points, that’s a good effort,” Knoll said. “I do wish we
wouldn’t have given up 55 points. Our goal is 50 or below.”
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF