ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro girls took an off-ramp on the path to progress Friday night, losing to the previously winless Lyons Lions, 46-45, in overtime.
The Trojans were fortunate to pull even by the end of regulation. Trailing 22-17 after an ugly second quarter, Hillsboro had its hands full against a team that suddenly believed it had a chance to pull off a victory.
When Shelley Burgess hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer end of the third quarter with defender Amanda Faber in her face, Lyons had its biggest lead of the game at 35-29 and everyone on both sides of the gym could smell an upset in the making.
To their credit, the Trojans pulled themselves back into contention with an 8-2 run. When Faber hit her second 15-footer in a row with 2:36 remaining, the Trojans had pulled into a 37-37 tie.
The two dominant scorers in the game, Damara Lewis for Lyons and Hannah Marsh for Hillsboro, traded baskets over the next 1:51 to tie the game at 39-39 with 46 seconds to go.
Both teams let golden opportunities to win the game slip through their fingers in the time remaining.
Trojan coach Melissa Stenfors was called for the first technical of her coaching career when she tried too vigorously to get an official to call a timeout after a Marsh steal.
When Lyons’ Kiley Loesch tossed up a couple of bricks, teammate Lewis stole the rebound from Hillsboro, but JuliAnne Chisholm blocked her attempt at a putback.
In the final seven seconds, Audrey Weinbrenner missed an open 10-footer for Hillsboro, Lyons’ Nikki Kratzer missed a shot in the paint and then Chisholm missed a desperation shot at the buzzer.
In the extra period, both teams managed one field goal-Lewis for Lyons and Chisholm for Hillsboro. But Lyons made four of six free throws while Hillsboro made three of four.
The end came when, with the score tied at 44, Burgess made the first of two free throws. Teammate Loesch rebounded Burgess’s miss on a second attempt and held on to the ball to secure Lyons’s first victory in 10 tries and drop the Trojans to 4-5.
Even though her team ultimately crawled back into the contest, Stenfors said the first half was the turning point of the game.
“The first half killed us,” she said. “We had to play catch-up the whole second half. We should not have been in that position.”
Hillsboro actually led, 12-11, after one quarter on the strength of six points by Marsh,who finished with a season-high 18.
Chisholm made one of two free throws 35 seconds into the second quarter to bump Hillsboro back to its biggest lead of the game at 13-11, the Trojans switched to a zone-as in Twilight Zone.
Nine turnovers and 2-for-11 shooting later, the Trojans were down by five when the buzzer mercifully ended the period.
“We weren’t catching the ball-it looked like it was a foreign object to some of us,” Stenfors said. “It was going off of hands right and left.”
Hillsboro finished with 14 turnovers compared to 19 for Lyons. Both teams shot around 36 percent from the floor-20-55 for Hillsboro and 18-49 for Lyons.
“Honestly, things that usually dropped for us, didn’t,” Stenfors said. “But that’s neither here nor there. Everybody can box out, but we didn’t box out. We gave them too many second opportunities in the first half.”
Marsh was Hillsboro’s most productive weapon, scoring 14 of her 18 points on drives to the basket-three on steals. But 11 points off the bench from Faber on 4-for-5 shooting was the only other silver lining on an otherwise cloudy night.
Meanwhile, Lewis, a 5-foot-11 junior, finished with 14 points for Lyons, but it seemed like more.
“She had great composure inside,” Stenfors said. “She took time on her shots, she got fakes, she used good balance.”
The first-year Trojan coach was mystified by her team’s performance against Lyons.
“They were winless and they were hungry,” she said of her opponent’s play. “We have to go out there and extinguish any hope that they have because every night is a new night for them. But we didn’t do that.
“We didn’t have patience on offense, we didn’t move without the ball,” she added. “They’re very disappointed in themselves, and they should be. I hope it stings for a while.”
Coming-Hillsboro was scheduled to face a challenging opponent to regather themselves in Tuesday’s matchup with defending Class 3A champions Riley County (6-3) in the first round of pool play in the Trojan Classic.
A full report of that game will appear in this week’s Free Press Extra.
Hillsboro will matchup against Cair Paravel (7-5) in the second round of pool play at 6 p.m., Thursday.
The outcome of those two games will determine when the Trojans play on Saturday.