ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Tyler Weinbrenner and his Hillsboro Trojan teammates recovered their shooting touch in time to defeat Smoky Valley, 47-40, Friday in Lindsborg.
After jumping to a 19-7 lead by the end of the opening quarter-thanks in part to nine points from Weinbrenner-the Trojans struggled to hit from the floor with any consistency.
The Vikings weren’t hitting much either, but they were able to scrap their way to within three points, 29-26, with just under three minutes left in the third quarter.
With the outcome still in the balance at 31-26, Tyler Weinbrenner opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, then combined a pair of driving layups with one by Andy Brubacher to boost the Trojans’ advantage to 40-28 with less than five minutes to play.
After Steven Chisholm fouled out with 4:46 to play, Alan Yoder came off the bench to stick two consecutive baskets from the paint.
Weinbrenner added three of four free throws in the last two minutes to carry the Trojans to the win.
HHS was 8-for-12 from the floor in the final period.
“I thought we got a little impatient, especially during the second half of the first quarter, because we were so open,” coach Darrel Knoll said about his team offensive struggles after getting off to a hot start.
“We were cranking the ball instead of looking to penetrate first,” he added. “We have to learn that we can get that (long) shot the next time-first, we have to attack the basket. We did that early, and we did it again in the fourth quarter when we had the run.”
Coming off two consecutive sub-par outings, Weinbrenner finished with 21 points, including 10 critical ones in the final period.
“What I thought he did today was not try to put it on the floor and go (to the hoop) every time he got it,” Knoll said. “That’s what he’s been doing the first three games, and he’s been struggling because of it.
“Tonight, he got some wide-open, good looks at the basket. Now that he’s starting to figure out how to get those kind of looks, he’s going to start making those shots. We’re going to see the Weinbrenner of old.”
Except for missing so many shoots during the middle quarters, Knoll was pleased with his team’s play.
“We came out (at the start) and moved the ball extremely well, and we hit our shots,” he said. “We got good reversal, we got a couple offensive rebounds where we had good spacing tonight.
“I thought we passed the ball to each other extremely well-a lot better than we did in our first three games. We started to look a little more like the team I want us to be.”
Knoll liked his team’s effort on the defensive end, too.
“I thought the entire team was really intense on defense,” he said. “The only thing was that it was so rough underneath, we had a hard time rebounding down there. I thought we had decent position, then all of a sudden they were coming through us and we weren’t grabbing the ball hard. We just need to learn to play stronger.”
The win gives the Trojans a mental boost heading into the holiday break, Knoll said.
“It was a great win for us,” he said. “If we had lost tonight, we’d be 2-2 going into the break with Salina Central coming next (Jan. 3). That might have been a little bit tough on us. It was big for us to get this win; now we’re 3-1.
“We know Central will be a tough team, but we also know we can win that game. We just have to knock down some shots and continue to play hard.”
Hesston-Hillsboro played a great third quarter to dig itself out of an early 12-1 hole, but Hesston rallied in the final period to take a 63-49 win in a battle of state-ranked teams.
The Trojans rallied to pull to within four, 16-12 by the end of the first quarter.
The Swathers led at halftime, 23-16, but Hillsboro out scored Hesston 25-10 in the third quarter to take the lead.
Dustin Jost played a strong game for Hillsboro, scoring a season-high 15 points. Tyler Peachey came off the bench and added 12 points.
A complete report of the Hesston game appears in the Dec. 19 Free Press Extra, which is on newsstands until Friday.