ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Hillsboro showed no signs of holiday rust as they clobbered the Halstead Dragons, 58-22, in their first game of 2002 Friday night in Halstead.
It helped that Halstead came into the game with a modest 1-5 mark, but this night the Trojans refused to play at the level of their competition and cruised to their third straight Mid Central Division win and their sixth victory this season in seven starts.
Halstead struck first blood when their star, Lindsey Miles, put back a rebound with 6:20 to play in the opening period. But Hillsboro’s Amber Hefley came back with a 3-pointer from the wing to give the Trojans a lead they would never relinquish.
By the time Hefley hit her second 3-pointer of the game with 2:53 left in the period, she and her teammates were up 14-4 and in firm control of the contest.
Halstead managed a free-throw before quarter’s end, but Hillsboro ended any dream of a Dragon resurrection with nine straight points in the first minute and a half of the second period. Jill Hein nailed a 3-pointer from the right corner, followed by a pair of baskets by Shannon Kroeker and then a rebound and put-back by Sara Thiessen.
Meanwhile, the Trojans held the Dragons to a single free throw until Miles scored on a steal and layup with 2:23 left before intermission. By the time the two teams made their way to the locker room, the Trojans held a commanding 34-8 advantage.
It helped that the Dragons, given opportunities at the line because of Hillsboro’s aggressive defense, made only one of six free-throw attempts, including two misses on the front end of a one-and-one.
The only question as the second half began was whether the Trojans would suffer a letdown.
Hillsboro came out strong again, scoring six unanswered points in the first minute and a half of the third quarter.
After Halstead’s Alisha Ashley broke the string with a steal and layup, Hillsboro’s Andrea Peachey hit two sweet 15-footers in a row to raise the margin to 44-10. Hillsboro was on top 46-14 by quarter’s end.
Even with coach Becky Carlson substituting freely in the final period, the Trojans expanded their lead, punctuated by the first varsity 3-pointer by Thiessen, a 5-9 post player who nailed her shot with 1:07 to go for the final points of the game for either side.
Carlson said she was pleased but not surprised by her team’s performance.
“That’s how they’ve been practicing over the holidays-really intense, seeing the floor good, shooting well, and getting up and down the court,” she said of her team. “They just see each other so well on the court.”
The Trojans also won the game within the game, holding Miles, the MCAA’s leading scorer to only seven points-well below her 21.8 average.
“I had told the girls before the game that the guards really needed to dominate, to keep her from the ball,” Carlson said. “She didn’t hurt us at all.”
Carlson’s only disappointment was that her team should have blocked out more aggressively for better rebounding position-even though they collected 30 boards.
Kroeker, who pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds, led a balanced scoring attack with 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Hefley finished with 12 points and Thiessen 11.
As a team, Hillsboro shot 47.2 from the field and, on defense, collected 16 steals.
Coming-The Trojans began a busy week Tuesday night with a home contest against a 3-5 Nickerson squad. The results of that game are available on the Free Line (947-3363) and the Web (old.hillsborofreepress.com).
On Friday, the girls will play host to Mid Central rival Sterling, who was 2-6 after Friday night.
The following night, they travel to Wellington for a non-league matchup with the Crusaders, who were 3-2 through Friday. That game is scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m.