Trojans’ ‘fog’ leads to first defeat

If there can be a silver lining to Hillsboro’s 53-49 double-overtime loss to Great Bend Friday night, it’s that the Trojans played in a cloud much of the night and still pushed a scrappy Class 5A team past regulation.

By the time the fog lifted, the Trojans had turned the ball over 23 times-many of the errors were unforced and a few were downright unimaginable-and shot a season-low 34.7 percent from the field.

“We were just out of sync,” said coach Becky Carlson, who struggled to explain her team’s performance. “We had people wide open, and we’d throw the ball behind them or in front of them. We normally don’t do that.”

A couple of key 3-pointers by Amber Hefley near the end of the third quarter fueled an 8-2 run and had put the Trojans on top, 30-25, heading into the final period.

But the Panthers took a 36-35 lead on a basket by Kaci Reed with 3:33 to play. Hefley nailed one more 3-pointer with 1:57 left to give Hillsboro a 38-36 advantage, but 12 seconds later Great Bend’s Cindy Keeley drove the lane for two points to tie the game.

After Hefley missed a shot with 1:43 left, the Panthers worked for a final basket. With less than 10 seconds remaining, Keeley drove the lane again, but the Trojans tipped the ball away, regained possession and called timeout with 2.8 seconds left.

Andrea Peachey’s inbounds pass sailed out of bounds to give the Panthers one more chance, but Keeley’s shot missed the mark as the buzzer sounded.

The Trojans missed their first three field-goal attempts of the first overtime period and turned the ball over twice before a bucket by Jill Hein with a minute left put the Trojans ahead 41-40.

After Shannon Kroeker and Keeley traded a pair of free throws, Robyn Penner hit one of two to give the Trojans a 44-42 lead. The Panthers missed three shots on their next possession, but the Trojans fouled Reed underneath with 13.4 seconds left. She made both charities to tie the game.

With 8.1 seconds left, Kroeker threw a pass in the general direction of Jill Hein, but the ball sailed out of bounds, giving the Panthers another opportunity to end the game. Once again, the Trojans knocked the ball away in the lane and the buzzer sounded.

With 1:15 left in the second overtime and the Panthers leading 48-46, Kroeker was fouled by Keeley and went to the line for a one-and-one. But Hefley inadvertently stepped inside the free-throw circle after Kroeker had already received the ball from the official, nullifying the free-throw and the one-and-one.

Lacey Moore followed the turnover with a 3-pointer with 42.5 seconds left to give Great Bend a 51-46 advantage. But Peachey gave the Trojans new life with a 3-pointer of her own with 19 seconds left.

Hefley fouled Keeley to stop the clock with 2.3 seconds left, but the junior calmly nailed both free throws for the final 53-49 margin.

Kroeker led the Trojans with 13 points and Hefley added 11. Jill Hein, the Trojans’ leading scorer, picked up two early fouls and missed most of the first half. She finished with six points on 2-of-10 shooting.

“It didn’t seem like we were as focused as we usually are,” Carlson said. “Great Bend gave us some different looks on defense and pressured the ball and we got in a hurry. Our shot selection wasn’t as good as what it has been. I guess I attribute that to a little bit of panic.”

Keeley led Great Bend with 18 points, several coming in the second half on baseline drives the Trojans couldn’t stop, or on rebounds.

“We didn’t block out well,” Carlson said. “We did a pretty good job of stopping them, but it was their second and third shots that really hurt us. We’d step off to help out and then we’d step out of position and we couldn’t step back in.”

Carlson said she hoped her team could learn from their mistakes and move on.

“It was a tough one to lose,” she said. “We need to keep working on the blocking out and being more patient.”

Chase County-Hillsboro turned up the heat in the second half and roasted the Bulldogs, 68-34, last Tuesday at Brown Gymnasium.

The Trojans, behind Jill Hein’s 10 points, took command of the game with a 12-4 run to close out the second quarter and led at intermission, 31-21.

But Hillsboro came out of the locker room even more aggressive on defense and more determined to push the ball up the court on offense. The Bulldogs’ Lori Wedman stuck back a rebound for the first bucket of the quarter, but the Trojans took over from there, outscoring the visitors 17-4 the rest of the way.

The Trojans showed no mercy in the final period. Led by Shannon Kroeker, who scored 18 of her game-high 22 points in the second half and 12 in the final period, Hillsboro padded its lead with a 17-7 home stretch.

“She does a great job of getting herself open, but sometimes she doesn’t get her shots finished,” coach Becky Carlson said of the 5-10 senior. “But, boy, she did a good job of finishing her shots tonight. She did great on defense too. She was a lot more aggressive.”

Kroeker hit 10 of the 12 shots she took inside the arc and had five steals. Her performance contributed to a team shooting percentage of nearly 53 percent in two-point land. The Trojans cooled off considerably behind the arc, managing only two baskets in 10 attempts.

“I thought our defense was a lot better in the second half, but I also thought we ran our plays a little more effectively,” Carlson said. “We ran two different plays in the second half, got some open looks, and we finished our shots.”

The Trojans’ defensive effort was reflected in a season-high 22 steals, with Amber Hefley accumulating a team-high six.

Another key for Hillsboro was the play of Sara Thiessen. The Trojans’ 5-9 post scored a career-high 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting and pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.

“Sara did a good job,” Carlson said. “She was more aggressive and more confident in there tonight.”

Coming-Hillsboro will take its 3-0 record on the road. The Trojans were to play in Lyons on Tuesday and will make the long trip to Ellinwood on Friday.

Next Tuesday, Hillsboro squares off with Wichita Collegiate at Brown Gymnasium. Games with Ellinwood and Collegiate will begin at 5 p.m., with the varsity girls starting around 6:30 p.m.

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