ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
An 11-2 run late in the third quarter proved to be the gift-and the lift-the Hillsboro girls needed for Christmas as they went on to wrap up a 50-43 road win over Ellinwood Friday night.
Trailing 26-23 against an Ellinwood team that seemed to be one step beyond its grasp all night, Hillsboro took a major leap forward in its game and perhaps the season.
Coming off a timeout with 4:02 to play in the third period, Tina Frick got a nice feed from Amy Neufeld to score the first points for Hillsboro at the 3:22 mark.
Sophomore Amanda Faber, making her first start, scored a minute later on a drive to the basket. After Neufeld added one of two free throws, Frick scored again for a 29-26 lead.
Ellinwood star Chelsea Malone then scored for the Eagles, but JuliAnne Chisholm came back with back-to-back baskets to complete the run and give the Trojans a 34-28 lead with 37.5 seconds left in the quarter.
Malone, who was held in check for most of the evening, slipped in two more baskets before the end of the quarter to cut Hillsboro’s lead to 34-32 at the final break. But a 7-1 start to the final quarter staked the Trojans to a 41-33 lead with 3:35 left in the game.
Ellinwood, who came into the game at 2-0, got as close as five points on a 3-pointer by Shawna Robl with 18 seconds left to play. But the Trojans nailed down a critical win to improve to 2-3 for the season.
“These girls needed some confidence-they just did,” said coach Melissa Stenfors, who was concerned how her team would respond after a 48-point loss to Wichita Collegiate on Tuesday.
“When you get walloped by a really good team, you need to come back and convince yourselves that you can play basketball, that we are a good team.
“Going into Christmas practices, this give us a huge motivation to work hard and get ready for the next part of the season.”
Both teams got off to a slow start on this night. Chisholm scored in the paint 10 seconds into the game and Sarah Plowman hit a pair of free throws 20 seconds later.
After that, though, the Trojans missed their next 10 shots while Malone missed her first four.
A basket by Robl at the 3:52 mark kicked off a 9-2 Ellinwood run over the next three minutes. Frick and Chisholm scored in the final 46 seconds of the quarter to pull the Trojans to within 11-8.
By the end of the second quarter, Ellinwood had bumped the lead to four points, 19-15.
Both teams struggled from the floor in the opening half. Hillsboro made six of 23 shots (26 percent) while Ellinwood managed seven baskets in 22 attempts (32 percent).
At the start of the pivotal third quarter, Hillsboro regained the lead for the first time since Chisholm’s opening basket by launching an 8-2 surge on baskets by Lora Andrews, Chisholm, Faber and Frick.
But Plowman, who finished with a team-high 17 points, scored back-to-back buckets to give Ellinwood one last lead at 26-23 before Hillsboro began its pivotal run.
Malone finished with 14 points, but made only five of 18 shots from the floor.
Chisholm tied Plowman for game honors by scoring 17 points for Hillsboro. But for the first time this season her teammates provided solid support, particularly in the second half.
Frick scored 10 points while Weinbrenner, Faber and Neufeld each added six. All six of Weinbrenner’s points came in the fourth quarter.
“Everybody contributed in some way,” Stenfors said. “Amy Neufeld pulled down rebound after rebound in the third quarter. That was huge because I thought Ellinwood was taking quick shots, and it was like ‘thank you.’ They were kind of playing into what we needed at that point to get back into the game and get ahead.”
Stenfors said it would be hard to overestimate the value of Friday’s win.
“I was real proud with how we came out and responded,” she said. “After Wichita, we could have folded our tent up, but we didn’t.
“That third quarter was just great-we got some rebounding, nice fast breaks and Tina Frick ran the floor and got us some good points there. I’m just happy.”
The Trojans will develop their skills on the practice floor until they return to action Jan. 3 for their first home game of the season when El Dorado comes to town.