ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro boys used an outstanding third quarter to blow open their final regular-season game of the season and finish with a convincing 65-35 win at Ellinwood Thursday night.
The Trojans led from start to finish after Caleb Marsh stole the ball and scored just 24 seconds into the game. A pair of 3-pointers by Kyle Jilka and one from Tyler Peachey extended Hillsboro’s lead to 11-4 with 5:09 to play.
But Ellinwood was not about to go down without a fight and managed to keep the deficit at seven points at the end of the first quarter (17-10) and also again at intermission (27-20)-thanks to a 7-0 Eagle run in the final 2:10 of the half.
“We played pretty well in the first half, but near the end we made some errors offensively, maybe forced it a bit and gave up some turnovers,” said Trojan coach Darrel Knoll. “They came back and really capitalized.”
Knoll said he challenged his team to come out hard in the third period.
“We needed to put it to them right away and not let them hang around on their home court-and we did just an outstanding job,” Knoll said.
Indeed. The Trojans put together one of their best quarters of the season-and that’s saying a lot.
Jilka lit the fuse with a basket in the paint off a nice assist from Marsh just 20 seconds into the quarter. The Trojans exploded for a 14-0 run over the next five minutes.
Tyler Peachey added four points, Derek Hamm chipped in a basket and Marsh scored the last six points before Ellinwood’s Jeff Steinert broke the string by hitting an 18-footer with 2:50 to play.
Undaunted, the Trojans finished the quarter with a 13-2 run to rack up a commanding 54-26 lead by the time the buzzer finally sounded.
“We played excellent defense and really moved the ball well on offense,” Knoll said. “We had some great passes for good looks and some good cuts to the basket, and we were hitting them on time.
“It’s amazing that if you hit somebody on time how much we can put the ball in the hole. That’s something we hadn’t been doing the last couple of games. I thought we did a much better job getting into a rhythm on offense.”
Even though the Trojans couldn’t keep up their blitzkrieg pace in the fourth quarter, they still managed to extend the lead to 30 points, 63-33, with 3:25 to play-which kicked in the continuous-clock rule.
The Eagles managed one more basket, but Toby Berg’s dunk with 47 seconds to play finished the scoring for both teams with an exclamation point.
Peachey led the Trojans with 23 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the floor; he was 2-for-3 at the line. He also pulled down a team-high seven rebounds.
Also in double figures for Hillsboro was Marsh with 12 points.
As a team, the Trojans shoot better than 57 percent from the floor compared to 31 percent for Ellinwood.
The Trojans committed 18 turnovers for the game, but forced Ellinwood into 27, including 19 Trojan steals. Marsh and Peachey had four steals each.
Knoll was pleased with his team’s response against Ellinwood following a sub-par performance in a loss to Haven on Tuesday.
“Sometimes a loss will refocus you,” Knoll said. “I felt like we hadn’t been playing horrible basketball, but I felt like our focus was slipping a little bit. It was nice to see us respond the way we did. Everybody played extremely well tonight.”
Knoll said it was nice to finish the regular season on a strong note.
“Now we just need to make sure we understand what got us here and make sure we’re going to keep doing it the rest of the year,” he said.
Coming-With the Trojans’ 54-36 win Monday over Hutchinson Trinity in the first round of sub-state play, Hillsboro will take on the winner of Monday’s Southeast of Saline/Wichita Trinity game Thursday in the semifinals at a time to be announced.
The sub-state championship game, with a berth in the state tournament on the line, will begin at 7:30 p.m., Saturday.