ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
by Don Ratzlaff
The team that played like it really wanted to win, did. That was coach Becky Carlson’s simple explanation for her team’s 45-43 loss to Wichita Collegiate Friday night in Wichita.
The Trojans, who dropped to 12-3 overall and 4-1 in the Mid Division, waited until the last four minutes of the game to find some intensity, but it was too little too late against a team it had defeated by 19 points back in December.
“They had the momentum going by then,” Carlson said. “It just didn’t look like we were very focused. We didn’t catch the ball. We had easy shots and blew them. That carries over.”
The Spartans, meanwhile, hardly resembled the team that rolled over in Hillsboro back in December. They came out aggressive on defense and seemed to pick up confidence offensively as the game wore on.
The Trojans, meanwhile, managed only seven shots in the first quarter and made only two of them while turning the ball over eight times-but trailed only 8-5 at quarter’s end.
Three straight buckets and a free throw by Collegiate’s Mary Strom in the first two minutes of the second quarter, stretched their lead to 10 points. By halftime, the Spartans still led by eight points, 20-12.
The two teams played even through the third quarter before Hillsboro scored five points in the last 10 seconds-two free throws by Kroeker, a steal, and then a basket and free throw by Jenna Jost at the buzzer-to pull within five, 32-27.
The Trojans, led on the offensive end by Shannon Kroeker, came alive after a Spartan timeout with 4:18 left. The 5-10 senior hit a 3-pointer from the right wing with 3:18 to play, then nailed four straight free throws over the next 45 seconds. When she scored again with 1:19 to go, the Trojans trailed only by four, 42-38.
After the Spartans were called for traveling against the Trojan press, Sara Thiessen rebounded a missed shot by Jill Hein and tossed the ball into the basket to cut the lead to two points with 41.5 seconds to go.
Freshman Kate Schaake nailed two free throws with 23 seconds left, but Hein’s 3-pointer from the left wing pulled the Trojans to within one point with 13.2 seconds left.
Hein then fouled Collegiate’s Jackie Brown with 6.4 seconds left. The junior made only one of two charities, but Kroeker’s half-court shot in the final second was well off the mark and the Spartans escaped with the two-point win.
“They were really aggressive on defense and we didn’t respond real well,” Carlson said of the Spartans. “I think part of it was that we didn’t pick it up until the end of the game. When we did, we looked better.”
Kroeker was the only Trojan to break double figures, finishing with 13 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field and a perfect 6-for-6 from the line. As a team, the Trojans shot 44.1 percent from the field.
Haven-After a first half when their shooting was as cold as the winter storm outside Haven’s gymnasium, the Hillsboro girls warmed up considerably in the second half and beat the Wildcats, 36-29.
The Trojans, playing in front of a handful of hardy foul-weather fans, managed only five baskets on 27 attempts during the first half, including a 1-for-11 showing behind the arc.
“We were a little impatient,” coach Becky Carlson said. “We need to work our way out and not work our way in. In the second half, I thought we did a better job of taking good shots.”
Fortunately, Haven wasn’t exactly on fire either, but they repeatedly beat an otherwise tough Trojan defense with lob passes inside. The Wildcats’ two post players, Allison Goff and Sarah Bartley, scored 13 of Haven’s 15 points and the Wildcats led, 15-11, at intermission.
“We just need to get on the back side with that opposite guard,” Carlson said of the Haven’s inside play. “Finally we did that and they didn’t adjust to what we did. I thought our inside girls played great in the second half. I thought our whole team played great on defense.”
While doing that, the Trojans began hitting their shots, too. Jill Hein, who was shut out in the first half, scored nine of the Trojans’ first 11 points of the third quarter to put Hillsboro on top, 22-18 with 2:25 left.
Then Amber Hefley took the scoring baton and scored the next nine points to increase the lead to 31-22 with 6:47 left in the game.
Haven put together a 6-2 mini-run over the next two minutes, but the Trojans held them to only one free throw over the last four minutes of the game.
For the night, Hefley scored 12 points to lead HHS, which finished with a 31.9 percent shooting percentage. Shannon Kroeker scored 10 points and Hein added her nine.
“I just thought we played better basketball than Haven,” Carlson said. “They’re coached well, they’re organized out on the court, but we just have better basketball players.”
Coming-The Trojans played Halstead at home on Tuesday. The results of that game are available on the Free Line (947-3363) and the Web (old.hillsborofreepress.com).
The Trojans face Hesston Friday night at home.