DESTINY IN DOUBLE O.T.!

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ERIC CLARK & DON RATZLAFF
In a night featuring two overtime periods, several last-second shots and a number of nail-biting moments, the Hillsboro boys’ basketball team outlasted the Hoisington Cardinals, 64-55, late Monday night to advance into the Class 3A state tournament on Wednesday.

“The seniors played great tonight,” coach Darrel Knoll said. “We had some good bench play, Tyler (Peachey) and Andy (Brubacher) played pretty well, too. It was a good team effort.”

Senior Adam Woods, who finished with 14 points, was elated.

“This is an awesome feeling,” Woods said. “They were tough inside, and they hit some pretty amazing shots. We’re (the seniors) really working on keeping everyone united and keeping positive heading into state.”

The Trojans jumped to an early lead behind their three senior starters-Woods, Layne Frick and Ross Duerksen-who hit the first three shots of the game. Tyler Weinbrenner capped an early 6-5 lead with a 3-pointer to give Hillsboro a 9-5 advantage.

After Woods hit a shot under the basket, the Cardinals added two points and Hoisington’s Joey Cotton connected on a 3-pointer to cut the Trojan lead to one.

On Hillsboro’s next possession, Duerksen found Frick on a back pick for an alley-oop lay-in to extend the Hillsboro lead to three.

After trading several baskets, and an Andy Brubacher 3-pointer at the buzzer, the Trojans and Cardinals were separated by one point, 17-16, at the conclusion of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Hoisington captured its first lead on a basket by Zach Baird that put the Cardinals ahead, 18-17.

The Trojans reclaimed the lead, but the Cardinals came back to tie the game with less than a minute left in the half. Woods then rebounded a Brubacher 3-point attempt and banked it off the glass to give the Trojans a 29-27 lead at halftime.

After intermission, Brubacher started to heat up from behind the arc, nailing two threes in the third period, including a crucial shot with about a minute to play to give the Trojans a four-point lead. But Hoisington’s Brad Boor cut the margin to two again, 39-37, at quarter’s end.

Boor gave the Cardinals an early lead in the final quarter on a 3-point play. The Trojans fought back and took a 49-46 lead until Cotton connected on an off-balanced 3-pointer from the top of the key to tie the game at 49 with less than 10 seconds remaining. The score was still 49-49 when regulation ended.

The two teams once again exchanged baskets during the first overtime. This time, though, Weinbrenner had a chance to win the game for the Trojans, but missed two free throws with 3.2 seconds left, sending the game into a second overtime with the score tied at 55.

Hillsboro took charge in the second extra period, hitting seven of eight free throws down the stretch.

Duerksen grabbed two key rebounds and hit Frick on a baseball pass for a layup before Woods closed out the Trojan win with two final charity shots.

Brubacher finished with 16 points, including four 3-pointers. Woods added 14 and Weinbrenner 11 to fuel the Trojan attack.

“Andy hit some big 3s at key times in the game,” Knoll said. “Woods played really strong and took care of the boards for us.”

Knoll said the state tournament could be the real challenge.

“We got to state and now we have to do something with it,” Knoll said. “The real test is how we are going to have to turn around and play Wednesday.

“I think we’ll have to shoot the ball better and I think, offensively, we need to attack the zone better than we did tonight.”

Semifinals

Hillsboro 61, Hesston 55

Ross “Ice Water” Duerksen nailed seven of eight free-throws down the stretch and scored a season-high 16 points for the game as Hillsboro held off Hesston in Thursday’s rematch of MCAA division champions.

The Trojan senior’s cool play in the fourth quarter of a hot game was key to the win.

Hillsboro led by as many as 14 points, 46-32, when Andy Brubacher hit a 3-pointer with 4:48 left in the third quarter. But the Swathers cut the lead to seven by the end of the quarter, 48-41.

When two Hesston baskets pulled the Swathers to within three points, 48-45, early in the final period, Duerksen countered with a driving layup with 5:58 left to give the Trojans some breathing room.

No one scored again until Duerksen hit the front end of a one-and-one with 3:42 to play.

After Hesston’s Taylor Dunham responded with a put-back 20 seconds later, Weinbrenner drove the lane, scored and was fouled. He missed the free throw, but Duerksen rebounded and was fouled as he went up for the put-back. The senior nailed both charities to make the score 55-47 with 2:50 to play.

Duerksen’s teammates, though, weren’t as reliable down the stretch when Hesston began fouling to regain possession. Brubacher, Adam Woods and Weinbrenner were a combined 2-for-6 from the line to keep the door open for Hesston.

In the midst of that, Duerksen hit two more charities with 57.6 seconds left, then put the game out of reach with a final pair with 13.2 seconds to go.

The Trojans, playing a solid game on both ends of the floor, spent the night building leads, then fighting off Hesston comebacks.

A 7-0 run in the final 48 seconds of the first quarter gave Hillsboro an 18-11 margin at the break. But the Swathers pulled back to within two, 20-18, in the first minute-and-a-half of the next period.

Hillsboro responded with a 7-2 run of its own, but the Swathers came back again, this time tying the game at 27 with 2:44 left in the half. By halftime, the Trojans were back in front by five, 34-29.

Hillsboro’s 12-2 run to start the second half gave them their 14-point lead and set the stage for Hesston’s final surge into the fourth quarter.

“It was a great win because Hesston was a tough team,” Hillsboro coach Darrel Knoll said afterward. “It’s just a game we’re glad that we won.”

Knoll said his team played hard the entire game.

“I thought we played defense all night,” he said. “At times we moved the ball on offense and we hit some big 3s. It was nice to see us shoot the ball a little better.

“Even though we missed some free-throws that would have made it easier, we didn’t give up any easy shots,” Knoll added. “They did cut it down, but I just felt we were going to win the game because we were playing good-enough defense.”

Feeling the impact of that defense was Brad Gattis, the MCAA’s leading scorer at 19 points per game. The 6-4 senior finished with 15 points on 7-of-16 shooting, but managed only six points in the second half.

Knoll credited the interior defense of Woods and Tyler Peachey.

“I thought we contested his shots pretty hard,” he said. “Every time we made him shoot over us, we usually had some pretty good things happen.”

Weinbrenner led the Trojans with 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including two 3-pointers in five attempts.

Indicative of how close this game was, the Trojans shot 51 percent from the field, including 60 percent inside the arc. Hesston shot 52 percent from the field, including 59 percent from inside the arc.

The Swathers were a perfect 9-for-9 from the free-throw line while Hillsboro managed only 10-of-18.

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