ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Few things set the stage for achieving a good outcome more than getting off to a good start.
The Hillsboro boys’ basketball team played well in the first quarter of both halves of Friday’s game at Marion and it carried through to a solid 63-49 victory.
Actually, both teams started the game well. Hillsboro jumped to a 7-2 lead in the first 1:45 on a 3-pointer by Eric Weinbrenner 15 seconds into the game and baskets by Daniel Deckert and Lucas Hamm.
But the Warriors rode the broad shoulders of Dale Vogel to pull within in one point at 11-10. The 6-foot-3 senior wide-body appeared almost unstoppable in the first period, scoring 12 points-10 of which came on strong moves in the paint.
But back-to-back 3-pointers by Kyle Kroeker over a 26-second span, and back-to-back traditional 3-point plays by Eric Weinbrenner over a 13-second span vaulted the Trojans into a 23-12 lead.
A 3-pointer by Travis Hett deflated the bulge to 23-15 at the first break.
“I thought we came out ready to play,” Hillsboro coach Darrel Knoll said about his team’s start. “We got the ball up the court well, played great defense and got some good transition baskets.
“I think we took charge of the game right away. The only thing they had going was Vogel getting inside. Somehow we didn’t play as good of defense as we should have there-but he made some good plays.”
Even a 1-for-9 shooting start for Hillsboro and another 3-pointer by Hett couldn’t derail the Trojans. The Warriors did pull as close as 27-23 when Vogel scored once more in the paint with 2:12 left in the half.
But Deckert responded with a pair of baskets for Hillsboro, one on a great feed from Wade Weibert and the other on a stick-back at the buzzer, to push the lead back to eight points at intermission, 31-23.
The third quarter started slowly for both teams, and when Hett scored on a drive to the basket with 4:49 left in the quarter, Marion was within seven points, 34-27.
But Derek Hamm, who had picked up a couple of early fouls trying to stop Vogel, ignited a 15-3 Trojan run with a pair of free throws at the 4:41 mark. The Trojan senior contributed six points to the surge and Weinbrenner five as Hillsboro suddenly led by 19 at 49-30.
A pair of free throws by Jason Hett cut the lead to 49-32 as the third period ended.
Twice the Trojans led by as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter, the last time at 57-36 following a free throw by Deckert with 4:33 to play.
To their credit, the Warriors battled to the end and cut the lead to 14 points by the final buzzer.
The Trojans, who shot 49 percent from the field (24-49) for the game, had four players finishing with double-digit points. Weinbrenner topped the list with 14, but right behind were Deckert with 13, Kroeker 11 and Lucas Hamm 10.
The Warriors, who shot a respectable 40 percent (17-43), were led by Vogel’s game-high 22 points, 17 of which came in the first half. Vogel managed just one field goal in the second half.
Marion coach Rex Ostmeyer praised the play of his senior.
“Dale carried us the entire first half,” he said. “In the second half, they started running another defender to him while the ball was still in the air and we had a hard time getting him the ball.”
Knoll said the Trojans’ post defense improved as the game progressed.
“Early in the game we just stood there and let him do whatever he wanted,” Knoll said about Vogel. “I thought in the second half we were a little more active on defense, and we forced him to question what he was going to do a little bit more.
Ostmeyer said, with the extra inside pressure on Vogel in the second half, his team needed some scoring relief from the outside but didn’t get it.
“The way our season’s been going, if our two sophomores (Travis Hett and Jason Hett) and Dale aren’t scoring, we’re going to have trouble,” he said.
Travis Hett did make it to double figures with 12 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. But no other Warrior scored more than 4 points.
“Overall, I was very pleased,” Knoll said about the Trojans’ effort. “We got to play a lot of guys tonight, we got good effort out of guys. It was a good game. Anytime you can come in here and win like that, it’s a good win.”
Ostmeyer was disappointed with the loss but felt his team showed it could compete.
“If we get rid of a lot of the errors we had-just little turnovers-we can compete and make some waves in the league yet,” he said.
Coming-Hillsboro was scheduled to take its 13-0 record to Halstead on Tuesday in a key league battle with the Dragons, who are 10-3 overall. The Trojans have a half-game lead in the Mid Central Activities over Wichita Collegiate at 3-0. Halstead is 3-1.
On Friday, the Trojans will play host to winless Sterling (0-13, 0-4) before taking on Haven (7-5, 2-1) in Brown Gymnasium on Tuesday.
Marion was scheduled to travel to Smoky Valley (7-6, 3-1) on Tuesday, then return home on Friday to take on Nickerson (2-2, 4-9). On Tuesday, the Warriors will play host to Hesston (8-5, 1-3).