Trojan girls lose heartbreaker to Black Bears

Even the most protective of coaches are sometimes pushed to the edge of their patience.

Hillsboro coach Becky Carlson, who has been quick to preserve the fragile confidence of her young team all season, didn’t mince many words following the Trojans’ 49-48 last-second loss at Sterling Friday night.

“I told them I was really disappointed in their desire,” Carlson said. “They have the talent, but they’ve got to believe and start going out and playing like it.

“I don’t know that I’ve told them all year that I’m disappointed in them, but I was disappointed in them tonight.”

She had reason to be.

The Trojans, who were leading by four points with less than a minute to play-despite a sub-par performance-twice missed the front end of a one-and-one, then suffered a defensive breakdown at the other end of the court that allowed Sterling’s Candice Lacey to score a nearly uncontested game-winning lay-in on an inbounds play as the buzzer sounded.

The late collapse will linger in the minds of players and fans, but Carlson was just as concerned about her team’s level of play the rest of the night.

“We just played with no emotion,” she said. “I’m not sure that Sterling didn’t want to win more than we did. We just got out-hustled and outplayed. We stayed with them because we’re better athletes than they are.

“Somebody’s got to step up and be the emotional leader on this team, and until someone does we’re not going to win the games we need to win.”

The Trojans started strong, scoring seven unanswered points on a 3-pointer by Hannah Marsh, a driving layup by Emily Ratzlaff and a basket in the paint by Katie Fast on a nice feed from Marsh.

But Sterling returned the favor-and then some-with an 11-0 run to give the Black Bears a four-point lead with a minute left in the period.

When Ratzlaff made all three free throws after she was fouled shooting from behind the arc and Amy Duerksen added a basket in the paint, the Trojans led, 12-11 with 22 seconds on the clock.

An awkward shot by Heather Durham somehow dropped through with 14 seconds to go to give the Black Bears a 13-12 advantage by the first break.

Hillsboro launched a 7-2 surge over the first 11/2 minutes of the second period to take a 19-15 lead. But the Trojans didn’t score again until Fast hit a 6-footer with 1:33 left before halftime. By then, Sterling was leading 24-19.

At the break, Sterling still held a 26-23 advantage.

The Trojans took a 36-34 lead after three quarters, thanks in no small part to a back-to-back 2-pointer and 3-pointer by role player Sara Hamm midway through period that gave Hillsboro a 32-28 lead.

That set the stage for what turned out to be a dramatic finish.

Hillsboro built its biggest lead of the night at 41-36 on a steal and basket by JuliAnne Chisholm with 4:22 to play.

But Sterling’s Moriah Smith went on a tear, scoring three unanswered baskets in just over a minute-including one off a steal in the backcourt-to put her team ahead by one point.

Hillsboro came back with a 3-pointed by Marsh from the right wing and a 10-footer by Ratzlaff, and the Trojans were back up by four, 46-42, with 2:29 to go.

Ratzlaff then missed an opportunity to extend the lead further when her first shot on a one-and-one missed the mark.

Sterling’s Durham scored on a drive to the hole with 1:22 to play to cut the lead to two. Fast then scored what turned out to be Hillsboro’s last points of the game with a bucket in the paint with 1:08 to go to make the score 48-44.

After Ratzlaff missed another one-and-one, Smith’s 3-pointer pulled the Bears to within a single point. Marsh then missed a one-and-one with 40 seconds to go to give Sterling a final crack at the win.

Courtney Goad’s awkward shot with six seconds left missed the mark, but the ball went out of bounds off a Trojan with three seconds to play.

Sterling threw the ball in under the basket and Lacey laid it in the hole for the win as the buzzer sounded.

The game was a contrast in styles. Sterling jacked up 63 shots by the end of the contest, making only 21, while the Trojans put up only 35 shots and made 19 for 54 percent shooting on the night.

“That’s what they do,” Carlson said. “They shoot wild shots and crash the boards. We didn’t do a bad job of blocking out, we just didn’t step out when we needed to on some of those guards. They had too many 3-pointers where we should have been out there farther.”

Ratzlaff led the Trojan attack with 14 points and four assists, and Fast finished with 10 points and six rebounds. Hamm scored a career-high eight points on a perfect shooting night-3-or-3 from the floor and 1-for-1 from the line.

With the loss, Hillsboro dropped to 4-2 in the MCAA Mid Division and 9-7 overall. Sterling improved to 3-3 and 7-9.

Coming-Hillsboro was scheduled to play at Halstead on Tuesday. A complete report of that game will appear in this week’s Free Press Extra, on newsstands late Thursday afternoon.

This Friday, the Trojans will face off against a 16-1 Wichita Collegiate team at Brown Gymnasium. The Spartans are ranked in Class 4A and defeated Hillsboro in an early meeting, 77-38.

Next Tuesday, the Trojans will play at Haven before closing their regular season Thursday with a makeup game at Ellinwood.

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