Hot start fuels Trojan boys to easy win over Sterling

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro boys returned to familiar form Friday and took care of an overmatched Sterling squad, 59-31, at Sterling.

Coming off a lackluster loss to Halstead on Tuesday, the Trojans communicated from the start of this game that they came to play.

Getting six baskets from five players, the Trojans jumped to a 13-0 lead through the first 3:30 of the contest on the way to an 18-5 advantage at the first break.

By halftime, the Trojans had nudged the lead to 28-12.

“In the first part of the game, we played well on both ends and really took it to them,” Knoll said. “In the second quarter we got a little sloppy with our passing. We didn’t score as much there for a while, mostly because we quit working hard like we had in the first part of the game.

“At halftime we talked about consistency. I thought after the first couple of plays in the third quarter, I thought we had that again.”

Sterling struck the first blows of the third quarter, piecing together a 6-2 run that cut Hillsboro’s lead to 30-18 when the Black Bear’s David Lacey nailed a 3-pointer at the 6:32 mark of the third quarter.

But a pair free throws by Kyle Kroeker at the 6:11 mark ignited an 11-2 run over the next 2:30, including back-to-back 3-pointers from Kroeker and Lucas Hamm, and then a traditional three-point play by Hamm.

Sterling scored the next three points, but Hillsboro closed the third quarter with a 9-1 run and a bulging 50-24 lead.

When Hamm scored off a steal 25 seconds into the fourth quarter and Kroeker followed 24 seconds later with a pair of free throws, Hillsboro had a 30-point lead, which kicked in the continuous-clock rule for the remainder of the game.

Kroeker and Hamm provided Hillsboro’s one-two punch for the game, scoring 17 and 15 points, respectively.

The Trojans made 21 of 42 field goal attempts (50 percent), compared with Sterling’s 11-for-35 performance (31 percent). Hillsboro made 14 of 19 free throws while Sterling made only eight of 20.

Hillsboro held a 31-24 edge in rebounds, led by Hamm’s 14. Hillsboro forced 17 turnovers while committing 12.

The win improved Hillsboro’s season record to 11-4 and its league mark to 4-2. Sterling dropped to 3-12 and 1-5).

“I thought we looked a little sharper and certainly a little more intense on the defensive end (than against Halstead),” Knoll said.

“Sterling’s a fairly quick team and they can penentrate pretty well,” he added. “I thought we pressured well and for the most part eliminated the penetration.

“I was very pleased with how we played tonight. It was much better than the last game.”

Coming-The Trojan were to play host to Smoky Valley on Tuesday. A report of that game will appear in this week’s Free Press Extra.

On Friday, the Trojans travel to Haven to take on a dangerous Wildcat team (6-9, 3-3).

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