Hillsboro girls win division title with 15th win

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
It took a spirited timeout to get them to seal the deal, but the Hillsboro Trojans took care of business against Ellinwood Friday night, beating the Eagles 48-34 at Brown Gymnasium.

The win improved Hillsboro’s record to 15-4 on the season and, more important, gave the Trojans an undisputed Mid Division title with a 7-1 record. Ellinwood had entered the game at 5-2 in the division and would have tied the Trojans with a win.

Taking advantage of several steals, the Trojans had established a double-digit lead by the end of the first quarter and then maintained it through the third quarter.

But the Trojans started the fourth quarter with a rash of missed shots and turnovers, enabling the Eagles to mount a 10-0 run through the first five and one-half minutes to cut Hillsboro’s lead to 40-34.

After coach Becky Carlson called a timeout with 2:42 to play, Amber Hefley broke the ice for Hillsboro with a driving layup. Fouled on the bucket, she added a free throw to boost the lead to nine points.

But after the Trojans turned the ball over one more time on their next possession, Carlson quickly called another timeout and, well, made her expectations clear-even to the crowd.

“That last timeout, I did raise my voice a tad, but they just need to finish-and they did,” she said. “That’s what we’re working on until sub-state. I just told them to lay it out on the line, go after it, and see what happens.”

The Trojans finished the game with an 8-0 run.

Carlson said she liked her team’s first three quarters of play.

“I thought, defensively, we were aggressive,” she said. “I thought we moved the ball quicker, I thought we came off our screens quicker, I thought we pushed the ball up the court and didn’t stop. I was pleased.”

Shannon Kroeker returned to her usual form with a team-high 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the floor and a perfect 3-for-3 from the free-throw line.

Jill Hein had one of her better shooting nights in a while with a 4-for-6 showing inside the arc. She was 1-for-4 from behind the arc and made two of three free throws for 13 points. Hefley finished with 10 points.

As a team, the Trojans shot nearly 55 percent from inside the arc but were only 2-of-13 from behind the arc. A number of their 2-pointers were scored off 16 steals.

Kroeker and Hein each had four steals.

Sterling-Hillsboro flirted with disaster the entire fourth quarter, but escaped with a 38-36 road win over Sterling last Tuesday.

The Trojans started strong against the Black Bears, who came into the game with a 5-11 record. Jill Hein bagged two 3-pointers and Amber Hefley added one during the first three minutes of the game to fuel an early 11-3 Hillsboro advantage.

The next four Trojan shots-all 3-pointers-missed the mark before Robyn Penner rebounded a 2-point miss by Sara Thiessen and scored with 17 seconds left to give the Trojans a 13-5 lead at the first break.

That burst of cold shooting, though, seemed to rattle the Trojans’ confidence and set them down a path of deteriorating effectiveness. Thanks to their play on defense, though, the consequences weren’t felt until later in the game.

When Shannon Kroeker hit a pair of free throws with 1:53 left in the third quarter, Hillsboro still led by seven, 27-20.

But a 3-pointer by Sterling’s Lydia Smith and a pair of layups by Janie Anthony tied the game at 27 by quarter’s end.

The two teams traded scores early in the fourth quarter until Kroeker, who struggled from the field most of the night, nailed a 3-pointer with 4:31 to play to put the Trojans on top, 36-33.

That would turn out to be Hillsboro’s last field goal. Worse, the Trojans’ shooting woes followed them to the free-throw line, too, where they went 2-for-8 over the same stretch. Two of those misses were on the front end of one-and-one situations.

Fortunately, Sterling wasn’t having much success on offense either. In fact, their 6-for-20 performance at the free-throw line may have been the Trojans’ salvation.

But when Courtney Goad hit a 12-footer in the lane, the Black Bears pulled to within a point, 37-36, with 29 seconds to go.

Hillsboro’s Andrea Peachey was fouled five seconds later. She missed the one-and-one, but the ball bounced off the rim and into the hands of teammate Sara Thiessen, who tossed it back out to Amber Hefley. Hefley was then fouled with 16 seconds to go and made one of two charities to put the Trojans up by two.

Sterling retained possession after Kroeker forced a jump ball with four seconds remaining. After a timeout, Anthony’s shot from the right baseline missed the mark, and the Trojans survived in regulation.

“We played good defense, we didn’t have that many turnovers, but we just couldn’t finish our shots,” coach Becky Carlson said. “You can’t complain about the 36 points they had, but if you can’t finish your shots, it’s tough to win.”

Carlson was pleased with the way her team refused to give up in the fourth quarter.

“For someone to come at you like that and to be able to win, especially on their home court, is a good thing,” Carlson said. “We didn’t throw the ball away at the end, and we did a good job of stopping them on defense.”

Coming-The Trojans closed their regular season with a game Tuesday against Smoky Valley at home. The results of that game are posted on the Free Line (947-3363) and the Free Press Web site (www.hillsborofreepress. com).

The Trojans will start sub-state play next Tuesday at home.

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