Trojan boys win physical war against Halstead

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Two questions faced Hillsboro coach Darrel Knoll going into Friday night’s game against MCAA Mid Central rival Halstead.


First, which Halstead team would his squad face to start post-holiday play-the one that beat Collegiate by double figures or the one that lost to a 2-5 Lyons team right before the break?


Then, which Trojan team would take the floor-the one that blew away that same Lyons team or the one that just squeaked by 2-5 Ellinwood a few days later?


When the buzzer finally sounded at the end of a hard-fought 38-31 Trojan win, the answer seemed to be “all of the above.”


Knoll’s crew definitely was off its game offensively coming off the post-holiday break, but battled hard on the defensive end.


The Dragons, meanwhile, looked like giant-killers early but seemed unwilling or incapable of taking advantage of the Trojans’ shooting woes as the game progressed.


Both teams struggled for points in the first quarter-and all night, for that matter. Hillsboro was particularly cold early and didn’t register a field goal until Layne Frick scored an easy one in the paint off a great feed from Shawn Hughbanks with 4:25 left in the opening quarter.


But that bucket, along with the two free throws from Tyler Weinbrenner 20 seconds earlier, was still enough to give Hillsboro its first lead, 4-2.


Hillsboro kept missing, though-from the field and the charity stripe-and the Dragons managed to build a 10-5 lead until Weinbrenner nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut the margin to two points.


Hillsboro didn’t score again until the five-minute mark of the second quarter, when Adam Woods registered a bucket and a free throw on a put-back and foul deep in the paint. The traditional three-point play brought Hillsboro back to within three, 14-11.


The Trojans, struggling to find their offensive rhythm in a physical game, finally reclaimed the lead, 18-17, with 1:50 left in the half on a pair of free throws by Frick.


Halstead tied the score on a free throw, but Andy Brubacher hit a pair of charities with 1:19 left and Ross Duerksen scored underneath on a feed from Steven Chisholm with 31 seconds left to give Hillsboro a 22-18 advantage at intermission.


The Trojans warmed up a bit in the opening moments of the third quarter with a 6-2 mini run. Woods registered four of those points to give Hillsboro a comparatively luxurious 28-20 lead.


But Halstead quickly cut the margin back to four with a bucket by 6-7 Ryan McKay and a pair of free throws by Brandt Pyle. The quarter ended with the Trojans nursing a five-point margin, 33-28.


The final quarter was more of the same-aggressive, sometimes bruising, defense and a bushel of missed shots at both ends.


The Dragons’ Jordon Regehr opened the period with a 3-pointer to cut the Trojans’ margin to two. But that turned out to be the last points Halstead would score. The Trojans, meanwhile, managed only two field goals and a free throw to limp to the seven-point margin at game’s end.


Knoll was pleased to survive the contest, considering his team shot a season’s worst 29.3 percent from the field. He blamed his team’s offensive woes on a combination of poor shot selection and Halstead’s physical defense-mixed with one of those unexplainable off shooting nights.


“I thought we were really impatient on offense,” he said. “It was such a physical game, we were having trouble cutting. But we weren’t setting enough screens and weren’t patient enough to get anything open.”


On the flip side, Knoll felt his team’s defensive play and its effectiveness on the boards were keys to the win.


“The one thing we did was get enough offensive rebounds to win us the game,” he said. “I was happy with the guys in that as frustrating as it could have been, they kept their composure and kept playing hard. Even though we were missing every shot, we were still playing good defense and we rebounded well.”


Weinbrenner, the only Trojan to finish in double figures, led the Trojans with 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting, including 2-for-3 behind the arc. Woods finished with nine points.


Coming-The Trojans put their 7-0 record on the line Tuesday in a home game against a 5-3 Nickerson team. Results are available on the Free Line (947-3363) and the Web (old.hillsborofreepress.com).


The Trojans pick up two more games this week, the first one at home against Sterling (3-5 through Friday) and then a non-league matchup with Class 4A Wellington (0-5 through Friday) on Saturday night.


Hillsboro will play its third game in four days Monday night when the Trojans tip off the Trojan Classic as the No. 1 seed against Inman.

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