ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The huge banner draped across the far wall of the Wichita Collegiate gymnasium said it all:
“Defense wins championships.”
On a night when the Hillsboro boys struggled to find consistency on offense, it was another night of consistent defense that carried the Trojans to a 49-41 win Friday.
“I was happy that we played excellent defense again,” coach Darrel Knoll said. “We didn’t win with the style we’d like to win, but we won the game and are certainly pleased that we did that.”
If inter-divisional play is figured in, the victory clinched the all-around Mid-Central Activities Association championship with a 12-1 mark and one game remaining. It also pushed the Trojans’ winning streak to 14 games and their overall record to 17-2.
Even with a 5-13 record coming in, the Spartans made it clear they would not let their longtime rivals walk away with this one.
The two teams went back and forth in the opening quarter, shooting an identical 5-for-11 from the field. Because two of Hillsboro’s baskets were 3-pointers by Tyler Peachey and Tyler Weinbrenner, the Trojans held a 12-10 edge at the first break.
The second quarter was more of the same until a traditional 3-point play by Peachey followed by a steal and layup by Weinbrenner pushed Hillsboro’s advantage to 26-19 with 1:43 to go.
Collegiate’s Justin Morgan scored on a drive to the basket with 32 seconds left to narrow the gap to five at intermission.
During the third quarter, the Trojans got five points each from Steven Chisholm and Weinbrenner to help Hillsboro build its biggest lead of the night, 40-29, by quarter’s end.
Weinbrenner’s points came in the last 1:20 of the period, including a 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds left. A basket in between by Eric Weinbrenner completed a 7-0 run.
But the Spartans refused to lay down. Baskets by Grant Mitchell, Morgan and Jess Cornejo, coupled with three straight misses by Hillsboro, closed the gap to 40-35 with 5:25 to play.
With 4:07 left, Tyler Weinbrenner drove the lane and scored. He was fouled on the play but missed the bonus free throw. Chisholm grabbed the rebound, however, and scored to put the Trojans back up by nine with 4:04 to go.
That turned out to be the last field goal Hillsboro would make as the Spartans began fouling in an effort to get the ball back.
The strategy almost worked. Already 0-for-3 from the line in the quarter, the Trojans made only five charities in their next 12 attempts -including two misses on the front end of a one-and-one.
Fortunately, the defense kept the Spartans from capitalizing, holding the home team to only three field goals on six shots.
“It would have made things a little easier tonight if we would have made a few,” Knoll said of the missed free throws. “The last three games we’ve struggled horrendously. There’s no reason for it. We’re good shooters. But it’s something that will come together.”
Tyler Weinbrenner finished as the Trojans’ high scorer with 16 points. Peachey added 12 and Chisholm 11.
As a team the Trojans shot a respectable 46 percent from the floor, but never seemed to be in a good flow.
Knoll said the absence of Andy Brubacher, the Trojans’ senior guard who was out with an ankle injury, was partly to blame.
“It just seemed we were a little bit out of sync without Andy in the lineup,” he said. “I think some of the guys were a little out of position from what they’re normally playing.
He said Tuesday’s hard-fought win at Halstead on Tuesday may have had an effect, too. But he also credited the Spartans with a great effort.
“Collegiate came to win tonight,” Knoll said. “They played well, and they’ve improved a ton. We can’t take everything away from them, but at the same time if we would have made some of the shots we should have made, it’s an entirely different game.”
Coming-The Trojans were scheduled to complete their regular season Tuesday with a game against Haven (10-9). A full report of that game will appear in the Feb. 27 issue of the Free Press Extra, on newsstands late Thursday afternoon.
Post-season play will begin next week at Hesston. The pairings were not available at press time, but will be reported in the Extra (if released by Wednesday), on the Free Line (947-3363) and on the Web (old.hillsborofreepress.com).