ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
A slow start turned out all right for the tortoise against the hare, but it didn’t reap a victory for the Hillsboro girls Friday night at Haven.
The hometown Wildcats sprinted to a 19-10 lead after one quarter-then more or less held that margin on the way to a 42-32 win over the Trojans.
Haven lit up their home-court crowd with 8-for-10 shooting during the open quarter, including six points from Morgan Skomal.
“They were hitting lights because we, for some reason, start out feeling the waters, trying just to see where we’re at with things,” coach Melissa Stenfors said. “We need to take more risks, put more ball pressure on. We’ve just got to get in there.
“We’ve got to bump that defensive pressure up another notch because that’s what fuels our offense. It gets us into the rhythm we need to be in.”
The Wildcats extended their lead to 25-10 in the first 1:07 of the second quarter when Julie Richardson, their top scorer, nailed her second 3-pointer of the night and Ashton Wendler followed with a 5-foot jumper.
The Trojans, who had gotten four points each from Tina Frick and JulieAnne Chisholm and two points from Lora Andrews in the first period, didn’t score in the second one until Chisholm put back a rebound at the 3:08 mark.
In the final minute of the half, Hillsboro seemed to find some heart on offense. Chisholm scored in the paint and Jessica Heidel added a traditional 3-point play with 28 seconds left.
But Richardson got the final word, taking an inbounds pass with 2 seconds left in the half and nailing a 15-footer at the buzzer to give her team a 29-17 lead.
The Wildcats established their largest lead of the evening, 33-17, in the opening moments of the third quarter when Wendler and Richardson each hit a field goal.
From that point on, the Wildcats began cooling off from the field, making only two of their last nine shots of the quarter.
Stenfors credited the cool-down to greater defensive intensity by her team.
“We were where we needed to be, but it was too little too late,” she said. “They’ve got to understand, it has to be from the get-go.”
Through the middle part of the third quarter, their defense fueled a 9-2 run. It was capped by a 3-pointer from Heidel with 1:40 to play that pulled HHS to within 35-26. Haven’s Paula Stucky added a bucket for a 37-26 spread at the final break.
In the fourth quarter, with Haven running clock and both teams missing shots, points were hard to come by.
Haven pushed its lead to 13 points on a basket by Mary Watson at the 6:51 mark, but neither team scored again until Aubrey Weinbrenner scored twice off of steals midway through.
The Wildcats played into the Trojans’ strategy of fouling to get the ball back by missing five straight free throws-the last three on the front end of consecutive one-and-one opportunities.
But Hillsboro couldn’t cash in on those opportunities, managing a scant two points the rest of the way on a basket by Amanda Faber with 1:02 to play that cut Haven’s lead to 39-32.
Haven finally made three of their last four free throws in the final 38 seconds to close out the 10-point victory.
Chisholm scored eight points to lead the Trojans, who dropped to 9-8 overall and 4-4 in league play. HHS shot 35 percent for the game.
Richardson, who was held to four points in the second half, still led her team with 14 for the evening. The Wildcats, also 9-8 and 4-4, shot 50 percent from the floor (22-44).
Coming-The Trojans, losers of two straight, face a challenging week of competition. On Tuesday they are scheduled to face off against undefeated and No. 2 ranked Wichita Collegiate in Brown Gymnasium. On Friday they play host to Ellinwood, the second-place team in the league at 12-3 and 7-1.