Hillsboro girls struggle, but survive three tests

by Don Ratzlaff

The best thing about beating Wellington Saturday night? Coach Becky Carlson’s players will have a week off to rest and retool while the boys do battle in the Trojan Classic.

“We just looked tired,” Carlson said after her team had slipped past the Crusaders, 54-47, in a disappointing performance. “We need that week off.”

After struggling earlier in the week against Nickerson and Sterling, the Trojans were hoping for a repeat of last year’s cakewalk against the Crusaders.

It never happened, although it looked like it might early. Jenna Jost got the Trojans rolling with two layups-one on the tip-off and the next on a steal-within the first 15 seconds of the game. When Shannon Kroeker hit one of two free throws on a technical foul, the Trojans were up 9-2 with 4:32 left in the first quarter.

Led by the aggressive play of Lindsey Davis, a 5-7 freshman who scored 12 of her game-high 23 points for Wellington through the first two quarters, the Crusaders battled to within five by intermission, 29-24.

Wellington refused to fold in the second half, never trailing by more than eight points. When Davis stole the ball and scored on a layup, with only 2:29 left in the game, the Crusaders pulled to within three, 47-44.

Shannon Kroeker responded by hitting both ends of a one-and-one, but when Amber Hefley missed the same opportunity, Davis scored again on a coast-to-coast drive, was fouled, and then hit the free throw to pull her team within two points, 49-47, with 1:40 to go.

Fifteen seconds later, Andrea Peachey missed a one-and-one, but Jill Hein tipped the rebound back out to a teammate. Hein and Robyn Penner then both missed easy shots, but Hefley stuck back the rebound to give the Trojans a four-point edge with 55 second to play.

Those final ticks may have been Hillsboro’s best moment as the Trojans thwarted every Wellington advance and managed three more points themselves to put the game away.

As a team, Hillsboro shot 32.7 percent from the floor and committed 19 turnovers.

Kroeker was the only Trojan to break double figures. She had 16.

“I think we kind of got taken out of our game in the first half just because of all the fouls that were called,” Carlson said. “We didn’t adjust to it. That made us a little non-aggressive. In the second half, I thought we did a little better. We missed some easy shots, but it was pretty rough in there.”

Sterling-Hillsboro pieced together a 9-0 run midway through the last quarter that propelled them to a 52-44 win over Sterling Friday night.

Plagued by cold shooting early, the Trojans trailed the Black Bears 6-5 after one quarter, but squeaked ahead at halftime, 22-20, on a bucket by Shannon Kroeker on an inbounds feed from Jill Hein with 14 seconds left.

Hillsboro maintained a modest lead through the third quarter, but Sterling started the final period with a 6-0 run to tie the game at 39 with 5:54 to play.

Amber Hefley then hit a 3-pointer 28 seconds later to spark the Trojans’ pivotal run. She followed with a bucket off the fast break with just under four minutes left. Sara Thiessen then scored on a nifty half-hook shot in the lane and Hefley finished the run with a layup on a steal and feed by Shelby Estelle.

Sterling’s Janie Anthony responded with a 3-pointer with 1:05 to play, but missed two one-and-one opportunities in the next 30 seconds to kill the Black Bear’s last hope for the upset.

Hillsboro’s Holly Lindsay scored two layups off the fast break in the last 26 seconds to seal the tomb.

“The only thing I can say is that we didn’t have a lot of turnovers, we never gave up and we worked hard,” coach Becky Carlson said in search of a positive spin for her team.

“I can’t complain about the effort,” she added, “because the effort was there. A lot of kids would have given up, but they didn’t. I think in their minds they knew they were going to win.”

Nickerson-Hillsboro broke a 21-21 halftime deadlock with a 19-7 third quarter and went on to beat Nickerson, 57-35, Jan. 8 at Brown Gymnasium.

The Trojans came out flat defensively and cold offensively in the first half, but turned up the heat on both ends of the court after intermission.

Amber Hefley set the tone by nailing her third 3-pointer of the game at the 6:50 mark of the third quarter. That ignited a pivotal 19-4 run over the next five and one-half minutes. Jill Hein scored seven of her team-high 12 points during that stretch.

“In the first half, I don’t know as far as turnovers, but we just couldn’t shoot,” coach Becky Carlson said. “When you can’t shoot, you look bad. In the second half, we got more steals on defense and we also worked the ball to get better shots.

“At halftime I just told them, ‘You’re playing good, but when you miss your shots you feel like you’re playing bad.’ Otherwise, we just looked a little flatfooted tonight. We were better in the second half. It seemed like we stepped it up a notch.”

That pace carried the Trojans through the final quarter, too. This time it was Shannon Kroeker stepping up on the offensive end, scoring nine of the 11 points she accumulated for the night.

After a slow start, the Trojans finished the night shooting 37.7 percent from the field, including five of the 15 3-point attempts they launched. Hefley, who finished with nine points, and Hein were a combined 5-of-11 from behind the arc.

In addition to her scoring, Hein contributed six rebounds, three assists and two steals and was responsible for only one turnover.

Holly Lindsay came off the bench to contribute a varsity career-high eight points.

Coming-The Trojans have this week off before resuming action at the Southeast of Saline Tournament. The tournament schedule was not available at press time but will be posted on the Free Press Web site (old.hillsborofreepress.com) as soon as it becomes available.

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