ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
In some places, winning never comes easily. Hillsboro survived a fourth-quarter Ellinwood rally to escape with a 61-56 victory Friday night in the Eagles’ House of Horrors.
Over the years, the Trojans frequently have struggled at Ellinwood, and this game was no exception.
Trailing 13-12 after one quarter, Hillsboro took the lead on a 3-pointer by Tyler Weinbrenner to start the second period and built a 31-24 cushion by intermission.
But Nathan Robinson, the Eagles’ 6-5 junior post, single-handedly brought Ellinwood back into contention with a string of eight straight points at the start of the third quarter to give the Eagles the lead, 32-31.
Layne Frick broke the string with a 15-footer along the baseline to put the Trojans back on top, but a 3-pointer by David Waite gave the Eagles a 35-33 lead.
Frick responded with another jumper to tie the game and launch a 14-2 run to close the quarter which gave the Trojans their largest lead of the night, 49-37. Weinbrenner accounted for six points during the run and Ross Duerksen four, including a great drive for a layup as the clock ran out.
But Ellinwood refused to cave. Fueled by eight points from Waite, the Eagles closed the gap to three, 57-54, when Cody Engle hit two of three free throws with 1:31 to play.
Hillsboro’s Andy Brubacher then hit both ends of a crucial one-and-one with 1:04 left, but Waite followed with two charities of his own to pull the Eagles back to within three points, 59-56, with 23 seconds left .
When Frick’s inbounds pass glanced off Brubacher’s hands and out of bounds, the Eagles had a chance to tie. But Robinson’s 3-point attempt from the corner clanked off the back of the rim.
Hillsboro rebounded and threw down court to Duerksen, who scored an uncontested layup with 11 seconds left for the final margin.
Coach Darrel Knoll said his squad, with the exception of a few key stretches, played under their capability during this game.
“I just felt we weren’t sharp on offense,” he said. “Our passes were off target. When we finally started hitting the right spots in the zone, we’d miss the shot. It was like we weren’t quite as focused as we needed to be tonight.”
He was pleased, though, with the way his team held off the Eagles in the closing moments.
“I thought the guys did a nice job of holding their composure at the end,” he said. “There were some plays that certainly could have changed everything to their favor, but we were still able to do enough to win.”
Weinbrenner led the Trojan attack with 19 points on eight of 14 shooting, including three 3-pointers in seven attempts. Frick scored 10 points in the first half and finished with 12 on perfect six-for-six shooting. Duerksen finished with a dozen points, too, and was four of six from the field.
“Ross made a great decision at the end of the third quarter and scored at the buzzer,” Knoll said. “He also played hard on defense and gave us some key leadership that we needed.”
As a team, the Trojans shot nearly 68 percent inside the arc, but managed only three of 13 behind it.
Knoll said he was happy to get the win in a gym where the Trojans frequently struggle.
“It was a frustrating game,” he said. “But everybody did enough good things that we were able to hang on. Everybody contributed in their way.”
He also credited Ellinwood’s persistence for the close game.
“They played hard the whole game,” he said. “They did everything they needed to.”
Lyons-Hillsboro had little trouble taming the winless Lyons Lions Tuesday night, Dec. 11. The Trojans did pretty much whatever they wanted on the way to an 88-51 win at Lyons.
Any question which team was in charge was answered in the first five minutes of the game as Hillsboro sprinted to a 16-2 lead. The score was 28-8 by the end of the first quarter.
Tyler Weinbrenner scored 11 of his game-high 22 points during the first period, including a four-point play when he was fouled while bagging a 3-pointer.
By halftime, the Trojans pushed their lead to 48-22. Coach Darrel Knoll began substituting deep into his bench midway through the third quarter.
“What I was pleased about most was, with the game being blown out early, we didn’t let down, we still played good basketball,” he said. “A couple of times I thought we let down a little bit, but we called time out and talked about it and then responded well.”
Layne Frick, who hit the game-winning basket against Great Bend the previous game and came in averaging 14.7 points per contest, managed only one point and picked up his fourth foul only two minutes into the third quarter.
As it turned out, plenty of other Trojans picked up the slack. In addition to Weinbrenner’s output, Ross Duerksen and Adam Woods broke double figures with 14 and 10 points, respectively.
Hillsboro held a solid edge in rebounding, 42-28. Four Trojans pulled in at least five boards. Tyler Peachey came off the bench for a team-leading six.
The tradition of tight officiating that began in the girls’ game continued with the boys. The two teams were whistled for 49 fouls and together shot 82 free throws.
Coming-Hillsboro completed its pre-Christmas schedule with a game against Wichita Collegiate yesterday. Results are posted on the Free line (947-3363) and the Web (hillsborofreepress.com).
Hillsboro will resume competition Jan. 4 at Halstead.
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF