ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro boys took full advantage of last-place Ellinwood, ending a four-game home-court losing streak with a 70-40 thrashing of the Eagles on Friday.
Ever looking for an edge to break the recent frustration at Brown Gymnasium, coach Darrel Knoll said he changed the team’s pregame rituals for this contest, including a different game ball.
Whatever the reason, the Trojans steadily pulled away from the Eagles as the game progressed.
But it started slowly.
With the Trojans trailing 6-4 midway through the first quarter, Peter Fast scored in the paint to ignite a 7-0 run over the final 3:14 to give Hillsboro an 11-6 edge at the first break.
Nate Holmes came off the bench to score eight points and Tim Funk added four to push Hillsboro’s lead at halftime to 28-19.
But the game truly turned in the third quarter. Kyle Kroeker set the tone with a 3-pointer 13 seconds into the action. Wade Weibert then scored the next five points with back-to-back buckets in the paint, plus a bonus free throw, to give Hillsboro a 36-19 lead only 1:30 into the period.
Holmes threw in eight more points, including back-to-back 3-pointers on either side of the 3-minute mark, while Fast added two baskets to help push the lead to 54-29 by the final break.
When Lucas Hamm scored the second of consecutive baskets with 3:07 to go, the Trojans finally cracked the 30-point barrier at 68-37, which kicked in the continuous-clock rule the rest of the way.
Holmes finished with a game-high and career-high 19 points.
“Nate shoots the ball well, but he’s only shot it well when we’ve been playing catch-up,” Knoll said. “I told him he had to play like that at the start. I thought he really came to play tonight.”
Kroeker added 14 points as 10 Trojans found their way into the scoring column.
Knoll also singled out the play of Fast, who scored eight points in his final home-court appearance as a senior.
“I thought he did a really nice job of posting up and finding the open man,” Knoll said.
For the night, Hillsboro shot nearly 55 percent from the floor (23-42) while limiting Ellinwood to 36 percent (16-44). HHS enjoyed an 17-for-24 advantage at the free-throw line over Ellinwood’s 5-for-10.
“I thought we played a lot better tonight,” Knoll said. “We moved the ball well…and the defensive intensity was as good as it’s been. That helped us create some offense.
“I think the guys had a lot of fun and everybody played really hard. I was really pleased with how we played.”
Wichita Collegiate-Collegiate’s Brett Alexander discovered gold at the end of the rainbow he launched in the final second of Tuesday’s game against Hillsboro.
The high-arching shot from the right corner found the bottom of the net and gave the Spartans a 41-38 come-from-behind victory over the Trojans.
It also gave Collegiate its first win at Brown Gymnasium since December 1996, according to coach Darrel Knoll.
“You can’t score 13 points
in the second half and expect to win a game,” coach Knoll said afterward. “Mostly it’s due to turnovers and poor shot selection. The first half we played a good game.”
Nine points from Hillsboro’s Kyle Kroeker fueled a tenuous 14-13 lead after one quarter. The Spartans retook the lead on a basket by Alexander to start the second quarter, but a free throw and a basket by Lucas Hamm sparked an 11-4 surge that put the Trojans ahead, 25-19, by halftime.
An 8-4 start to the third quarter, including two baskets from Wade Weibert and one each from Hamm and Troy Frick, gave Hillsboro a 33-23 lead at the midway point.
But a rash of turnovers-seven for the quarter-undermined Hillsboro’s ability to score while Collegiate added five points to close the gap to 33-28 at the final break.
Even so, it wasn’t until Joseph Houlik hit a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter that the game appeared in jeopardy. A basket by Clint Cornejo and a 3-pointer from Cole Fiegel put the Spartans ahead, 36-33, with 5:36 to go.
Hillsboro responded with a basket from Frick, a free throw from Kroeker and two free throws from Hamm to offset a basket by Houlik and tie the game at 38 with 2:15 to play.
At that point, Collegiate began running time off the clock, apparently working for a last shot. The Trojans, with only four fouls to that point, promptly added three more to force a one-and-one situation with 38.8 seconds to play.
Knoll said the effort to foul was actually a miscommunication.
“I was trying to get us to do something to make them make a mistake because they were holding for a last shot,” he said. “We (coaches) were saying ‘No foul’ and they thought were saying ‘Foul.'”
Even so, the strategy appeared to pay off for Hillsboro when Fiegel missed the first free throw. But the carrom fell into Alexander’s hand, giving Collegiate a second chance at victory.
After his hot start, Kroeker scored only three points over the final three quarters to finish with a team-high 12. Hamm added 10.
Alexander was high-point man for the game at 13; Fiegel added 12.
Hillsboro outshot the Spartans, 56 percent (15-27) to 43 percent (16-37), but Hillsboro finished with 15 turnovers to the visitors’ seven.
Coming-Hillsboro (13-6) was scheduled to complete its regular season Tuesday with a game at Hoisington.
Sub-state play begins Monday, Feb. 27. Hillsboro will compete at Hesston, where the Trojans and Swathers will join a field that includes Northern Heights, Mission Valley, Southeast of Saline, Halstead, Marion and Osage City.
Pairings will be announced no later than Friday, Feb. 24, and will be posted as soon as possible on the Free Press Web site.