ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Hillsboro overcame a slow shooting start, a pesky Ellinwood defense, and a touch of ill health to escape with a 45-35 win over the Eagles Friday night in Ellinwood.
The home team, which came into the contest at 0-4, played blow for blow with the Trojans, who came in at 3-1 and with a No. 5 ranking in Class 3A.
Shannon Kroeker hit a pair of free throws for Hillsboro a minute into the game, but the Trojans missed their first 12 shots from the field against an Ellinwood zone and trailed 6-2.
Andrea Peachey finally broke the ice with a 12-footer with 1:26 left in the first quarter. Kroeker and Amber Hefley followed with consecutive 3-pointers to give the Trojans a sudden 10-6 lead at quarter’s end.
Hillsboro pushed its lead to double digits, 20-10, with 2:25 to play in the half on a pair of baskets by Jenna Jost and still led 22-14 at intermission.
But the Trojans could never shake the Eagles. In the end, Hillsboro never led by more than 10 points and the Eagles never crept closer than four as the two teams more or less traded scores the rest of the way.
Hillsboro struggled to get into an offensive rhythm all evening. It didn’t help that Jill Hein, the Trojans’ floor leader and top scorer, was under the weather and sat out most of the second and third quarters. She finished with three points by nailing a 3-pointer in the final quarter.
As a team the Trojans shot just under 32 percent from inside the arc (13-41) and only 27.3 percent from behind it (3-11). The Trojans did shoot well from the free-throw line, though, making 10 of 12 attempts.
Coach Becky Carlson thought her team’s defense improved the second half with a more aggressive attack.
“In the first half we were like a step behind, but in the second half I thought we did a better job,” she said.
For the first time this season, nobody broke double figures for Hillsboro. Kroeker finished with nine points to lead the way and Sara Thiessen added seven.
Lyons-Hillsboro jumped to a 10-point lead right before halftime, then more or less maintained that margin through the second half on their way to a 55-44 win over a scrappy Lyons team last Tuesday in Lyons.
With Hillsboro leading by a scant two points, 18-16, midway through the second quarter, Trojan senior Shannon Kroeker sparked a 15-7 surge, scoring nine of her 11 points en route to a 33-23 lead at intermission.
The Trojan defense held the home team to only four field goals in the second half, but the game turned into a foul fest for Lyons. Fortunately for Hillsboro, the Lions cashed in only 11 of the 24 charity opportunities they received over the last two periods.
“They were just being real aggressive to the basket, and we
didn’t move our feet,” coach Becky Carlson said. “Some of the fouls I thought could have been called either way. But we just did a good job of sticking with it.”
Kroeker and Amber Hefley both fouled out by the time the game was over. As a team, the Trojans were whistled for a season-high 23 fouls during the evening.
Offensively, the Trojans were most effective when they pushed the ball up the court and shot nearly 48 percent from the field.
“I thought we were very effective on the fast break, and I thought we were a lot more patient on offense tonight, generally,” Carlson said.
Jill Hein led the Trojan attack with 14 points. Sara Thiessen matched Kroeker’s output with 11.
The Trojan defense-Hein in particular-limited Sierra Radke, Lyon’s sophomore all-league guard, to 10 points.
“I think (Radke) really forced it tonight, and we just kind of laid back and let her do her thing,” Carlson said.
Coming-The Trojans (4-1) completed their pre-holiday schedule with a home game against Wichita Collegiate yesterday. They will resume competition Jan. 4 on the road against Halstead.
Results of the Collegiate game are posted on the Free Line (947-3363) and the Web (hillsborofreepress.com).
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF