ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Smoky Valley and Hillsboro girls came into Saturday’s makeup game with identical records, but the Trojans, playing with the conviction that they were the better team, prevailed at Lindsborg, 62-49.
“They were really focused and never lost it,” coach Becky Carlson said of her squad. “(The Vikings) have some great shooters but we didn’t let them get back into the game.”
In fact, the game turned on the great shooting of the Trojan guards, who accounted for nine 3-point baskets on the afternoon.
Hannah Marsh blistered the nets for 23 points on 8-for-16 shooting, Emily Ratzlaff contributed her second straight double-digit performance with 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting and back-to-back 3-pointers from Megan Peachey in the final period proved to be the proverbial dagger in the heart for Smoky Valley.
“All of my guards just shot great today,” Carlson said. “It was just a good game for us.”
In the early going, Marsh and Ratzlaff carried the team offensively, scoring all 13 Hillsboro points in the opening quarter. Marsh led off the game with a 3-pointer and Ratzlaff nailed two more before the period was over.
Smoky Valley scored the final two baskets, though, to cut Hillsboro’s lead to 13-10 at the break, but the Trojans were not about to ease off.
A 7-1 start to the second period pushed their lead to 20-11 with 5:48 left in the half. Hillsboro took that nine-point lead into the locker room when Marsh nailed a 3-pointer with four seconds left to give the Trojans a 32-23 advantage.
Hillsboro came out strong again to start the third quarter, this time rolling up a 9-0 run to lead by 18 at 41-23 with 4:46 left in the period.
But Smoky Valley did not quit, finishing the quarter with a 9-0 surge of its own that brought the lead back to nine at the final break, 41-32.
When Britta Tjaden scored a basket only six seconds into the fourth quarter, the Vikings were back to within seven points. Then, after JuliAnne Chisholm made one of two free throws, Jade Pihl responded with a 3-pointer from the top of the key and Smoky Valley was within six.
But Chisholm hit a another free throw and Peachey came through with her two big 3-pointers to push Hillsboro back to a 50-39 lead.
Five straight free throws brought the Vikings back to within six points one more time with 3:37 to play.
But 7-for-8 free-throw shooting down the stretch and a game-ending 3-pointer by Marsh gave Hillsboro the 13-point win.
The Trojans shot a solid 47 percent from the field (22-47) while limiting a good-shooting Viking squad to 36 percent (18-50).
Pihl finished with a team-high 19 points.
“I got some good scouting reports on them and I could just tell we were ready to go-the focus was there,” Carlson said about her team’s effort on defense. “It was a good game for us, that’s all there is to it.”
The win boosted Hillsboro’s season record to 12-7 and its league mark to 8-2. If the Trojans beat Hoisington in their regular-season finale on Tuesday, they would finish third in the Mid Central Activities Association behind Wichita Collegiate and Hesston.
Ellinwood-The Hillsboro girls managed to stop a dramatic second-half skid just in time to avoid the cliff, and escaped with a 50-45 win Friday at Ellinwood.
Fueled by their strong team defense and the scoring of JuliAnne Chisholm and Emily Ratzlaff, the Trojans appeared to be cruising to their second lopsided win over Ellinwood this season.
The Eagles, who came into the game at 11-5 overall and 5-2 in the league, didn’t score until Chelsea Malone bagged a 3-pointer more than three minutes into the game.
By then, the Trojans were leading 6-0. Hillsboro extended its lead to 13-5 before Ellinwood’s Ashley Kaiser scored a pair of baskets in the last 1:24 to cut the lead to four points at the break.
But the Trojans controlled the second period, scoring another 13 points while holding Ellinwood to two baskets and led 26-13 at halftime. At the break, all but two of Hillsboro’s points had come from Chisholm and Ratzlaff, who each had 12.
When the Trojans started the third-quarter with a 6-0 run, Hillsboro was flying high with a 19-point margin.
The reversal of fortunes started with a basket by Malone at the 4:00 mark. Ellinwood’s Sarah Plowman followed with a 3-pointer and Malone bagged another 2-pointer to cut the lead to 12.
But Chisholm responded with a pair of baskets in the final 1:25 of the period to rebuild the lead to 36-20 at the final break.
Fueled by a full-court press that seemed to befuddle the Trojans, Ellinwood continued its surge into the fourth quarter. A 10-2 run through the first four minutes cut the margin to 38-30.
With the score 42-32, Jodi Long completed a traditional 3-point play, Kimy Morgan hit a free throw and Jessica Elsen drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
Suddenly, Hillsboro’s lead was down to 42-39 with 2:00 to go.
Then, when Morgan drove the length of the court and scored on a layup with 1:04 left, the margin was as thin as a Hollywood model at 44-43.
But the Trojans dug deep during that final minute. On the offensive end, they made four of six free throws and got a key layup from Hannah Marsh. Defensively, they held Ellinwood to a single basket before the final buzzer sounded.
“We panicked a little bit, but at the end we held our own-and it’s good for us to do that,” coach Becky Carlson said. “I kind of had premonitions of El Dorado (where the Trojans lost earlier this season after leading by double digits), but we did what we needed to do. Right now, that’s the main thing. We got out of here with a win.”
Carlson attributed Ellinwood’s comeback to the way the game was being called and her team’s failure to adjust.
“It was just really physical,” she said. “(The Eagles) were really bumping inside.”
Carlson also felt Ellinwood kicked up its intensity a notch, which translated into better shooting and a more effective press.
“They started not missing, and that press really hurt us,” she said. “We just didn’t dribble. We stood and held the ball and didn’t know what to do when the people we usually throw to weren’t open.
“But that was good for us,” she added. “We drew up some different things, we ran it and got a couple of easy baskets.”
Chisholm finished with a game-high 22 points on 9-for-14 shooting while Ratzlaff added a season-high 16 on 5-for-6 shooting. Marsh broke double figures with 10 points.
As a team, the Trojans shot an outstanding 60 percent (22-37) from the floor while limiting Ellinwood shot 46 percent (21-46). No one broke double figures for the Eagles.
Carlson said her word to her team during Ellinwood’s rally was stay the course.
“I told them we just have to play like we’ve been playing,” she said. “Hold on to the ball was one of the main things I told them, because it was rough out there.
“They just kind of pulled it together themselves. They did a good job. I’m seeing some real maturity coming from them.”
Coming-Hillsboro was scheduled to close its regular season with a home game against Hoisington on Tuesday. A full report of that contest will appear in this week’s Free Press Extra, on newsstands late Thursday afternoon.
Depending on the outcome of Tuesday’s games, the Trojans, currently at 12-7, could be seeded as high as No. 2 in next week’s sub-state tournament.
A worst-case scenario would still make them the No. 3 seed, and still would give them a home game for next Tuesday’s opening round.
Joining them in the eight-team field are Hesston (16-3), Lyons (12-6), Hillsboro (12-7), Medicine Lodge (8-9), Marion (7-10), Halstead (7-11) and Sterling (5-13).
The officials pairings will be posted on the Free Press Web site as soon as they become available.