Hillsboro girls overwhelm winless Dragons, 52-15

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
In the classroom of Advanced Basketball, Lesson 1 for coach Becky Carlson’s young Hillsboro High School girls’ team was learning to win.

Lesson 2 was learning to play to one’s ability even against an undermanned opponent.

Coming off a less than sterling victory against the one-win Black Bears on Tuesday, the Trojans passed Lesson 2 with flying colors in Friday’s 52-15 shelling of winless Halstead at Brown Gymnasium for their sixth straight victory.

It was apparent from the outset that Carlson’s squad was determined to prove itself on that point, coming out fast and hard, especially on offense.

The Trojans, a team that has been winning of late with a more deliberate style, came out guns blazing against Halstead with a season-high 20 shots in the opening period.

Only five of those shots found the mark, but the Trojans still led at the first break, 12-4. Freshman JuliAnne Chisholm scored the Trojans’ first seven points, including an old-fashioned 3-point play to break the scoreless tie at the 6:10 mark.

“We took plenty of shots, but we had open shots,” Carlson said. “After the first quarter, we moved the ball a little more and backed off from quite so many shots. In the last three quarters, we shot a lot better. It was just good execution and good shot selection.”

The Trojans were never more efficient than in the decisive second quarter, when they made eight of nine shots from the floor, including three of four 3-point attempts, to build a 32-8 margin by intermission.

The “shock and awe” of Hillsboro’s offensive attack almost overshadowed the team’s effective play on defense, where the Trojans harassed the Dragons into 3-for-23 shooting by halftime and dominated the boards.

With the game all but decided by halftime, Carlson said she challenged her team with one more goal: to play a complete game.

“I told them at halftime I was pretty sure we were going to win, the only thing left was how they wanted to feel about the win afterward,” Carlson said.

The Trojans took the challenge to heart. After missing its first two field-goal attempts and two free throws to start the third quarter, Hillsboro quickly recovered its stride and continued to expand its lead.

On offense, the Trojans got points from all five starters. On defense, they kept the Dragons scoreless until Megan Wedel hit a free throw with 1:09 left in the quarter.

At the buzzer, the Trojans’ margin was 46-11.

With a 35-point lead, the league’s 30-point rule kicked in for the fourth quarter and the clocked ran continuously until the final buzzer.

Carlson was pleased with her team’s consistency throughout the game.

“We played four good quarters,” she said. “We really executed well, we took good shots, we moved the ball well, we played good defense. I was proud of how they executed everything. They never let down.”

Aside from the margin of victory, the most encouraging single statistic was the team’s reduction in turnovers. Coming in averaging a generous 18.3 a game, the Trojans committed only six against the Dragons.

Recovering from its 5-for-20 first quarter, Hillsboro shot a solid 48 percent from the field, making 22 of 46 shots for the game.

Chisholm, with 11 first-half points, led a balanced scoring attack with 15 for the game. Katie Fast added 10, Hannah Marsh nine, Marissa Diener eight and Emily Ratzlaff and Amy Duerksen each scored five.

The only place the Trojans were sub-par was at the free-throw line, where they managed only four points in 13 opportunities.

Halstead, meanwhile, managed only five field goals in 36 attempts (14 percent). Kacy Garnett, one of only three Dragons to score, finished with eight points.

Coming-Lesson 3 for Hillsboro may be “Don’t be intimidated by a successful team from a bigger school.” The Trojans will take their 6-3 record (4-0 in Mid Division play) to Abilene Friday for a non-league game against the Cowgirls, who are ranked fourth in Class 4A.

“Abilene will be a big game,” Carlson said. “We hope we can figure out a way to beat them. But we’re excited. Six games in a row- you’ve got to be excited about that.”

The Trojans will begin tournament play next week at the Southeast of Saline Invitational.

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