ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro High School boys overcame a tentative start and some questionable officiating to defeat Hesston, 52-38, in the first round of sub-state play Monday night in Brown Gymnasium.
The Trojans committed four turnovers in the first two minutes of the game and fell behind 7-0 before Nate Holmes broke the ice with a 3-pointer at the 5:15 mark.
His basket ignited a 9-0 run that carried the Trojans to a 9-7 lead as the first quarter came to an end.
Wade Weibert stretched the run to 11-0 with a basket in the opening seconds of the second quarter. But both teams struggled to score in the remaining minutes of the half. Hesston managed a a 5-1 edge to tie the game at 12 at intermission.
The Trojans, in a game that grew increasing physical, made only one of 11 shots during the period while the Swathers were only a smidge better at 2-for-11.
The game turned in the early minutes of the third quarter as Weibert got the Trojans going with a couple of stick-backs in the first 1:30 of the half.
Kyle Kroeker then drained a 3-pointer and Troy Frick and Weibert added scores in the paint to complete an 11-1 run and give the Trojans a 23-13 lead at the 4:46 mark.
By the end of the third period, Hillsboro still enjoyed a double-digit lead at 29-18.
The Swathers never got closer than nine in the fourth quarter. After a shaky start at the free-throw line, the Trojans finished strong in the charity department, making 12 of 13 free throws-six of six by Kroeker and six of seven by Hamm-in the final 2:40 of the game to claim the 14-point victory.
Weibert and Hamm tied for scoring honors with 13 points a piece while Kroeker added 12.
Unofficially, the Trojans shot 44 percent (16-36) from the field compared to 29 percent (14-49) for Hesston. The Trojans outshot the Swathers from the line, 16-for-23 to 10-for-16.
The win improved Hillsboro’s season mark to 15-6 while Hesston finished at 8-13.
“It’s always a great win when you play an arch rival and win for the third time in the same season,” coach Darrel Knoll said. “We knew Hesston would bring everything it had.
“I was pleased with the way the guys responded in the second half of the game because the first part was absolutely unbelievable. We got a lot of good shots, we just didn’t make any.
“I thought we did a good job of maintaining our composure,” he added. “Our effort was really good all night.”
Hoisington-Hillsboro finished its regular season with workman-like 55-39 win at Hoisington last Tuesday.
Kyle Kroeker set the tone by hitting a 3-pointer 10 seconds out of the gate to give Hillsboro a lead it would never relinquish. The Cardinals did tie the score with a free throw and basket, but scores by Lucas Hamm and Wade Weibert ignited a 12-2 run the rest of the period as Hillsboro built a 15-5 advantage.
Kroeker, who scored eight of those points, found himself benched by foul trouble for most of the second period. Even so, the Trojans extended their lead to 30-15 by halftime.
Nate Holmes picked up the slack for the Trojans by coming off the bench to drain a pair of 3-pointers while Weibert added four more points in the paint.
The Trojans shot 55 percent (11-20) through the first two quarters while limiting the Cardinals to 33 percent (6-18).
The Cardinals started the third quarter with an 11-5 run, thanks in no small part to 2-for-8 shooting by Hillsboro.
But after Hamm scored with 1:17 left in the quarter, Kroeker followed with a layup off a steal and then a 3-pointer at the buzzer to inflate the Trojan cushion to 42-26 at the final break.
Kroeker added two more 3-pointers and two free throws in the final quarter to finish with 21 points for the game.
Cooling off a bit in the second half, the Trojans finished with 46 percent shooting (20-44) for the game while Hoisington warmed up to 41 percent (15-37).
The Cardinals, who fell to 5-15 for the season and 1-10 in the league, were led by Trevor Bieberle with 13 points and Cameron Horesky and Zac Stetler with 11 each.
Hillsboro, which improved to 14-6 and 7-4, forced 17 turnovers while committing 11.
“Overall tonight, I thought we played hard,” said coach Darrel Knoll. “I thought we kept our composure for the most part. There was that one little stretch (in the third quarter) where it seemed like we were playing more not to lose than to win. Once we got through that, we finished the game strong.
“Hoisington gave us everything they had; it wasn’t like they weren’t playing hard,” he added. “I was proud of us for holding our ground and doing as well as we did.”
Coming-With its win over Hesston on Monday, the third-seeded Trojans advance to the sub-state semifinals on Thursday against the winner of Monday’s game between No. 2 Osage City (14-5) and No. 7 Marion (6-14).
That game will be played Thursday at Hesston with tip-off time to be determined after Monday’s results are known.
JV boys go 19-0
The HHS boys’ junior varsity completed a perfect season Tuesday with a 47-31 win over Hoisington on Tuesday. The team finished with a 19-0 record.
“This has been a great group of guys that played hard, played together and had fun,” coach Nathan Hiebert said.
On the JV roster this year were Gavin Serene, Johnathan Christian, Aaron Stepanek, Tyler Kaufman, Michell Koop, Troy Frick, Nate Holmes, Clay Shewey, Thad Holmes, Daniel Jost, Ben Heyen, Brett McIntosh, Elliot Soyez, Grant Schneider, David Loewen and Darren Enns.