ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
So much for the possibility of a devastating upset.
The Hillsboro Trojans did everything-and more-you might expect a 15-2 team to do to a team that came into Brown Gymnasium Friday with a 3-13 mark.
Showing no letup in their recent brilliance on the court, the Trojans posted their biggest offensive explosion of the season with a 91-48 whipping of Sterling for their 12th straight win.
Never mind that Sterling had won three of its last four games, including a 15-point upset of a tough Halstead team earlier in the week.
Never mind that the Trojans might be looking ahead to their own rematch with Halstead on Tuesday, or that they were missing starter Dustin Jost because of illness.
This game was all Hillsboro, all the way.
The Trojans got seven points from Andy Brubacher and six from Tyler Weinbrenner en route to a 20-12 lead by the end of one quarter.
By halftime, the Trojans had extended the lead past the point of no return, 42-24, with Shawn Hughbanks picking up the scoring baton and contributing seven of Hillsboro’s 22 points.
“The only thing I was concerned about was that we’ve had a little bit of sickness and Jost not showing up,” coach Darrel Knoll said. “But I thought we’d be ready to play. The guys have been practicing well, and we’ve been pretty upbeat about things.”
Knoll was pretty upbeat about his team’s performance against Sterling.
“We’ve been sprinting the lanes pretty well offensively and moving the ball well,” he said. “And we continue to play excellent defense.”
No argument here.
What’s most impressive, though, is that the Trojans have been maintaining a strong effort for 32 minutes. And this game was no exception.
Rather than relax with a comfortable halftime lead, Hillsboro kicked into overdrive in the third quarter.
With Hughbanks tossing in eight more points-including six straight over a 53-second stretch-the Trojans went on a 27-12 tear that pushed the score to 69-36 by the time the quarter ended.
After Weinbrenner followed a 3-pointer with a pair of free throws to give Hillsboro a 77-37 margin with about five minutes to play, Knoll finally cleared his bench.
In fairness, the Trojan coach went unusually deep into his bench already in the first half, and got some quality minutes from junior Kyle Jilka and sophomores Daniel Deckert and Eric Weinbrenner.
“We got into a little bit of foul trouble and Deckert came in and played an outstanding ball game,” Knoll said. “(Eric) Weinbrenner had a good game, and Jilka came in and scored some points for us, too.
“I thought everybody was ready to play, and they played really hard, really well,” he added. “It was a real nice win for us.”
In addition to great bench play, the emergence of Hughbanks in the last two games has the Trojans firing on all cylinders. The 6-0 senior finished with a varsity-high 18 points against Sterling to complement the 12 he scored earlier in the week against Lyons.
Through his first 15 games as a starter, Hughbanks had been averaging just 2.7 points.
“I just told him to just relax and play basketball,” Knoll said. “I think he just decided he’s going to have fun the last part of his senior year and not worry about this or that. It’s really showing. He’s having fun.
“He ran the lanes extremely well. He got up the court and the guys did a good job of finding him.”
Four other Trojans finished in double figures: Tyler Weinbrenner with 15, Brubacher and Tyler Peachey with 11 and Caleb Marsh with 10.
As a team….
“We’re executing really well together,” Knoll said. “And our break is going much better than it was earlier in the year. A lot of things are coming together. Hopefully, another month of this kind of basketball will be good.”
Lyons-The Trojans exploded Tuesday for 32 first-quarter points in an 80-43 rout of the home team. Andy Brubacher led Hillsboro with a season-high 20 points. Tyler Weinbrenner added 15, Dustin Jost 14 and Shawn Hughbanks 12.
A complete report of the game appears in the Feb. 13 issue of the Free Press Extra.
Coming-Hillsboro squared off Tuesday with its closest Mid Division challenger, Halstead. The results of that game are available on the Free Line (947-3363) and the Free Press Web site (old.hillsborofreepress.com).
A full report of the game will appear in this week’s Free Press Extra, on newsstands late Thursday afternoon.
On Friday, the Trojans travel to Wichita Collegiate for a rematch with the Spartans (5-11).
The Trojans will close out their regular season Tuesday with a game at home against Haven (8-9).