ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro girls struggled to find a rhythm on offense against Nickerson, but thanks to their quality defense they were productive enough to post a 36-23 road win Friday in their league opener.
After taking a slim 17-14 halftime lead on a 3-point basket by Hannah Marsh with 14 seconds left, the Trojans took control of the game on the strength of a defense that allowed only four points through the first 13:30 of the second half.
The Panthers more than doubled their output for the half in the game’s final 2:30 against the Trojan subs, but not before Hillsboro had established a commanding 36-18 lead.
“I definitely credit our defense-our three-quarter-court zone,” coach Melissa Stenfors said. “We knew it was going to work in the second quarter. When we finally made some baskets, we knew it was going to work (the rest of the game).”
The game was a close battle through the first two quarters as both teams struggled to score. A basket by Amanda Faber at the 1:21 mark gave the Trojans a 10-8 lead at the first break.
Two baskets by JuliAnne Chisholm extended Hillsboro’s lead to 14-8 with 5:47 left in the second quarter, but a 6-0 surge by Nickerson tied the game with 3:41 to go. Marsh then broke a Trojan streak of six straight misses by draining with her 3-pointer from the right wing.
The 10-0 Trojan run to start the third quarter broke open the game. Chisholm contributed one basket while Marsh and Tina Frick each added two. Frick’s second score, coming off an inbounds pass from Marsh, gave Hillsboro a 27-14 lead with 2:05 left in the quarter.
A basket by Nickerson’s Melissa Wilson with 1:28 left broke the Trojans’ run, but Hillsboro led 30-18 going into the final period.
For the game, the Trojans held the Panthers to 9-for-37 shooting (24 percent) from the floor, which enable them to win comfortably despite making only 35.5 percent of their own shots (16-46).
“We weren’t in synch,” Stenfors said of her team’s play on offense. “We were all in different books-not just the same page or the same chapter.
“I tried some different things and at the end I finally went to our stall offense because it got us moving and passing-but still we made some passes that should have been backdoor cutting.”
Chisholm led the Trojan attack with 15 points on 7-for-12 shooting. She was the only Trojan to reach double figures.
Ashley Dohrman led Nickerson with nine points.
The Trojans forced 16 turnovers while committing 17.
The win gave Hillsboro a 1-0 start in the Mid-Central Activities Association and a 4-3 mark overall. Nickerson dropped to 0-1 and 3-5.
Coming-The Trojans were scheduled to take on their rivals from Hesston on Tuesday. They will travel to Haven for a 6:30 game on Friday.
Hillsboro will play in the Trojan Classic next week. Tournament seeding and pairings are expected to be announced today (Wednesday), based on the results of Tuesday’s games.
Check the Free Press Web site for the schedule.