Trojan girls struggle to find consistency at Abilene tourney

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Tamara Thomas sank a 12-foot jump shot with two seconds left in the game to give Chapman a come-from-behind 37-36 win over Hillsboro in the third-place game Saturday at the Dickinson County Classic in Abilene.

It also provided a fitting but painful capstone to a frustrating week for new coach Melissa Stenfors and a Trojan team that too frequently undermined its potential with poor shooting and turnovers.

After establishing a 23-16 lead with a solid first half of play, the Trojans appeared to be on the way to their second victory of the season when JuliAnne Chisholm drained a 10-footer to give her team a 27-19 lead with 6:07 left in the third quarter.

But Hillsboro managed only one more field goal the rest of the game. It came from Lora Andrews with 2:39 left in the third quarter and helped Hillsboro maintain a one-point lead at the final break, 30-29.

Unable to score from the field in the final period, the Trojans were forced to live or die at the free-throw line-and did a little of both, making six of 11 attempts.

The last successful attempt came from Chisholm with only 13.7 seconds left and gave Hillsboro a one point lead and a decent chance to win.

But Chapman pushed the ball up the court and Thomas hoisted her game winner from the left edge of the free-throw lane. Time ran out before the Trojans could stop the clock.

Stenfors said it was her team’s inability to run its offense in the second half-not the missed free throws late in the game-that really cost her team the victory.

“I don’t know where we were on offense,” she said. “Even when we tried to run a set play, we didn’t get it done. I don’t know how on one night they’re running it and the next night they don’t know how.”

Hillsboro seemed to have taken a significant step forward in the first half against Chapman after struggling through two games of multiple misfires and mistakes.

The Trojans made eight of 17 field-goal attempts in the opening two periods and seven of 11 free throws.

But in the second half, the Trojans managed only three field goals in 17 attempts and seven of 15 free throws.

Chisholm led Hillsboro with 18 points. No one else cracked double figures.

For the first time this season, Hillsboro finished with fewer than 20 turnovers-which was an encouragement for Stenfors.

“That was our goal going into this game,” she said. “I wanted to be realistic and get it under 18-that was our goal. (Assistant coach Sandy Arnold) had us for 17, so I think we controlled ourselves much better.”

As for the her team’s overall performance, “I’m just looking for more consistency-building on each quarter and try to consistently score, then stop the other team.”

Rock Creek-Hillsboro broke into the win column Friday with a 35-32 win over the Mustangs. But another night of poor shooting and high turnovers took a lot of the luster off the accomplishment.

“We played a lot better on Tuesday against a team (Abilene) that was better (than Rock Creek).” coach Melissa Stenfors said. “Today we played just well enough to win.”

Hillsboro trailed 10-7 after the first quarter and 14-13 at halftime, thanks in no small part to its 4-for-19 shooting from the floor and 16 turnovers.

After Rock Creek scored the first basket of third quarter, Hillsboro put together its best stretch of the game. A basket by JuliAnne Chisholm at the 6:35 mark ignited a 9-2 run-even though the Trojans made only one of six free throws during the surge-and Hillsboro led 22-18.

The Trojans pushed the margin to 27-20 before freshman Amy Yenzer nailed a 3-pointer with 1:04 left in the period to pull her team to within four at the break, 27-23.

Baskets by Hannah Marsh and Tina Frick to gave the Trojans a 31-23 lead at the 5:15 mark of the final quarter. But Yenzer hit another 3-pointer and teammate Jessie Redding added a 2-point basket to cut the lead to 31-28.

Chisholm and Lora Andrews each scored a basket in return to give Hillsboro a 35-28 advantage with 2:28 to play.

But Rock Creek scored two more baskets to inch back to within three points and leave the outcome in doubt until the end.

The Trojans could have nailed down a comfortable victory but missed its last four free throws-including the front end of two one-and-one opportunities with less than 20 seconds left in the game.

“We gave it every shot we could to give it to them,” Stenfors said.

Chisholm scored a team-high 10 points, but contributed in other key ways down the stretch.

“JuliAnne came up with some crucial defensive rebounds in the last two minutes that, if they had been able to put back some shots, we would have been in a very critical situation,” Stenfors said.

The Trojan coach said her young team needs to learn to execute more consistently on offense.

“When we were disciplined and when we executed, we looked good,” she said. “We got to the basket and we got the shots we needed.

“The rest of the time, we didn’t. We weren’t under control.

“We’ve got some growing up to do,” she added. “We’ve got to understand the game a little better, including the time and situation. We’ve got to give maximum effort every time on defense.

“And we’ve got to be more coachable. There are things we (coaches) said and we practiced- and we’re just not applying them during the basketball game.”

A full report of Hillsboro’s 46-33 first-round loss to Abilene last Tuesday appears in the Dec. 8 issue of the Free Press Extra.

Coming-The Trojans were scheduled to take their 1-2 record to state-ranked Wichita Collegiate on Tuesday. A report of that game will appear in this week’s Free Press Extra, which will be on newsstands late Thursday afternoon.

On Friday, Hillsboro will travel to Ellinwood (1-0) to wrap up its pre-Christmas schedule. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m.

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