Late free throws carry Trojan girls to fourth straight win

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Good defense kept them in the game, but it was clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch that secured the Hillsboro girls’ 51-41 win over Haven Friday at Brown Gymnasium.

The Trojans nearly doubled their offensive output in the fourth quarter-23 points compared to 28 points in the previous three. But 14 of those points came at the line on 20 attempts, including eight of 12 free throws in the final two minutes.

“A big key was hitting our free throws at the end,” coach Becky Carlson said, affirming the obvious but not taken anything for granted about a team that came into the game shooting only 50 percent at the line for the season.

The Haven squad that came into the game with an 0-5 league record and a 2-12 mark for the season was significantly better than those records would indicate with the return in recent weeks of Hillary Stucky, the Wildcats’ 5-foot-11 all-league post player.

Stucky finished the night with a game-high 23 points, but it was teammate Julie Richardson who kept the Wildcats close in the first half with eight points while JuliAnne Chisholm and her Trojan teammates held Stucky to four.

Two of Stucky’s points came 50 seconds into the game when she gave Haven its only lead of the night on a 15-foot baseline jumper.

The Trojans, meanwhile, forced several Wildcat turnovers off their full-court press, but couldn’t buy a basket against Haven’s zone until Chisholm nailed a layup off a steal with 5:20 on the clock.

Less than a minute later, Hannah Marsh drained a 3-pointer off a steal to put the Trojans ahead for good, 5-2. Her second 3-pointer of the quarter at the 2:11 mark gave the Hillsboro a 10-4 lead at the first break.

That’s when Richardson stepped up, scoring six of Haven’s 11 points in the second quarter, including a basket with 1:04 left that cut Hillsboro’s lead to 20-15 at intermission.

Hillsboro missed its first six shots of the period, including four consecutive 3-point attempts in an effort to crack Haven’s zone.

“We didn’t take bad shots,” Carlson said. “We just weren’t hitting them.”

The Trojans did get a lift from freshman Audrey Weinbrenner, who drained back-to-back baskets late in the period that extended their lead to 20-13 before Richardson’s late basket.

At halftime, the Trojans were shooting a chilly 33 percent from the floor with 11 of their 24 attempts coming from behind the arc. Key to Hillsboro’s lead was that its defense limited Haven to half as many shots (7-12).

By the end of the third quarter, Hillsboro’s lead was down to four points, 28-24. Amy Duerksen scored five of the Trojans’ eight points with the other three coming on one more 3-pointer from Marsh.

Meanwhile, Chisholm picked up her fourth foul in the final 2 seconds of the quarter. Stucky immediately took advantage of the defensive adjustment by scoring 15 points in the final period to keep Haven within striking distance.

Despite Stucky’s late heroics, Haven could not close the gap as Hillsboro countered each of her scores with either a basket or a couple of free throws.

When Marsh nailed a pair of free throws with 9.1 seconds left, the Trojans had their largest lead of the night, 51-39.

“I thought we did a lot of good things tonight,” Carlson said. “We looked organized out there. We set up what we needed to do and stayed within what we could do.

“I thought we did a good job of fending them off and holding our lead at the end and not panicking.”

Duerksen led Hillsboro with 12 points, but right behind her were Chisholm and Marsh, each with 11. Megan Peachey added eight points, all of them in the final period on a 3-pointer, 2-pointer and 3-for-3 free-throw shooting.

Coming-With their fourth straight win, the Trojans took a 10-6 record (6-1 in league play) into what promises to be a challenging stretch of games with which to end the regular season.

On Tuesday, the Trojans played at Wichita Collegiate, which was undefeated and ranked No. 1 in Class 4A before losing to Kapaun-Mount Carmel by one point on Saturday. A full report of that game will appear in this week’s Free Press Extra.

On Friday, the Trojans travel to Ellinwood to take on an Eagle team the Trojans defeated by 22 points in December but still maintains a 10-5 record. The following day, they travel to Smoky Valley for the game that was postponed Feb. 8 because of snow. The Vikings are 10-6 for the season.

The regular season concludes Tuesday when the Trojans host Hoisington (7-8).

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