Trojan girls defeat Wamego to claim third in Classic

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Hillsboro parlayed a brilliant third quarter into a 48-44 win over Wamego to claim third place Saturday at the second annual Trojan Classic girls’ tournament.

The Trojans found themselves trailing 17-12 after one quarter on the strength of the Red Raiders’ 7-2 run midway through the period.

After Hillsboro scored the first four points of the second quarter to close the gap to one point, the Red Raiders outscored the Trojans 10-3 the rest of the way to take a 27-19 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Then came the third quarter.

Coming out with a more aggressive full-court trap press led by the hustle of Hannah Marsh, the Trojans scored five points in the opening minute on baskets by Lora Andrews and JuliAnne Chisholm and a free throw by Amy Neufeld to climb within three points.

A timeout by Wamego did little to derail the Trojans’ momentum. When Chisholm broke a two-minute scoring drought by both teams with a steal and basket, she launched a personal 8-0 run over a 2:15 stretch that carried the Trojans to a 31-27 lead with 3:45 to go in the period.

A basket by Neufeld and two by Amanda Faber in the final 3:06 enabled the Trojans to maintain that four-point lead with a 38-34 score at the final break.

Coach Melissa Stenfors said she didn’t think her halftime speech was particularly rousing.

“I just convinced them that it took only four stops and four scores and we were in (the game),” she said. “We were right there with them.

“Hannah and Juli just took it upon themselves to get after it,” she added. “They can make things happen. They just fueled our team. They took over the first part of the third quarter.”

Even with the turnaround, the game was far from over. Hillsboro missed its first five shots to start the fourth quarter, while Wamego made two free throws and a basket to tie the game at the 4:35 mark.

Once again it was Chisholm, who missed three shots in the opening minutes, who stepped up with some offense when her team needed it most. The junior scored seven points over the next two minutes, capped by a traditional three-point play that gave Hillsboro a 45-41 lead with 2:39 to go.

Hillsboro could have cruised home with some better free-throw shooting. The Trojans made only two of six attempts in the final 1:13 of the game-and the first two misses were on the front end of one-and-one opportunities.

Fortunately, Hillsboro’s defense gave up only a 3-pointer by Caitlin Eichman with 19.9 seconds left. By then the Trojans had built a 46-41 lead.

“They did exactly what I asked of them,” Stenfors said about her team’s defensive play over the final stretch. “They played the last two minutes smart. I can’t be more proud of these girls.”

Chisholm finished with a game-high 22 points on 10-for-19 shooting from the field. Eighteen of her points came in the second half.

As a team, Hillsboro made 20 of 45 shots for 44 percent accuracy while Wamego made 17 of 46 (37 percent).

Beyond the final score, the biggest statistic in the game was turnovers. Hillsboro committed only seven while forcing 18. Chisholm had four of Hillsboro’s nine steals.

Stenfors said she was pleased with her team’s development over the three-game tournament after a frustrating loss to Riley County in Tuesday’s opener.

“Against Cair Paravel, we dominated a team we should have dominated,” she said.

“I think the intensity in practice changed after Tuesday night’s game. We’re not putting up anymore with half effort; we’re not putting up with letting them achieve less than they’re capable of achieving.

“We’re going to be on them like stink on poop for the rest of the year and make them be the players they can be. The got a taste of that a little bit more with each game.”

Cair Paravel-Latin-A dose of Cair Paravel was just what the doctor ordered for a Hillsboro girls’ team needing to regain its competitive health.

After two straight sub-par performances that led to losses-including a 39-25 defeat against Riley County in Tuesday’s tournament opener-the Trojans seemed to recover some much-needed confidence during their 58-32 victory over the Lions.

The small parochial school from Topeka came into the tournament with a 7-5 record built on playing mostly other small parochial schools. As was the case last year, the Lions stepped into a higher competitive level at the Trojan Classic.

Hillsboro missed its first three shots of the evening and Cair Paravel took first blood with a basket at the 6:20 mark.

But the Trojans, applying relentless defensive pressure, did most of the blood-letting after that with a 19-5 run through the rest of the quarter.

Hillsboro scored six of its eight baskets in the paint, including three by Tina Frick and two of JuliAnne Chisholm’s three baskets.

Cair Paravel committed eight turnovers during the period and 28 for the game.

“Our plan was to go as hard as you can for two minutes, and keep pressure defense on them,” said guard Hannah Marsh, who, along with joined Chisholm and Amanda Faber, finished with four steals on a 23-steal night for the team.

The second quarter was more of the same as Hillsboro allowed the Lions only one successful field goal in 14 attempts.

Meanwhile, the Trojans scored 15 points to take an overwhelming 34-9 lead by halftime.

Chisholm, who had 10 points by the break, said the transformation of the team started a day earlier.

“We definitely went at it in practice yesterday,” she said. “We brought it all to the court. We ironed out some things that needed to be ironed out.”

Coach Melissa Stenfors started subbing early and often. By the end of the game, 10 of the 13 players who suited up played more than seven minutes and eight played 12 minutes or more.

“It was nice to see her sub in and out more because we knew we’d get back in the game,” Marsh said. “It wasn’t like, ‘I need to conserve.’ It was more of a team effort and not just seven people.”

In the second half, the Trojans’ dominance cooled but was never threatened. Hillsboro extended its lead by three points, 52-24, by the end of the quarter and was actually outscored by the Lions, 8-6, in the final period as Stenfors went deep into her bench in the final minutes.

When Frick nailed a 13-footer with 4:29 left in the game, Hillsboro had its largest lead of the night at 57-25.

Chisholm and Frick led the point parade for Hillsboro with 16 and 13, respectively. Nine Trojans scored in the game and all but one took a shot at the basket.

As a team, Hillsboro finished with 36 percent success from the floor (20-55) while Cair Paravel made 26 percent (12-46). At the free -throw line, the Trojans made 16 of 24 attempts while the Lions made seven of 16.

Together, the teams combined for 3-for-20 shooting from behind the arc.

Coming-Hillsboro (6-6) will return to action Friday with a league game at Marion.

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