ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
In a classic example of “too little, too late,” a furious fourth-quarter rally fell short for the Hillsboro girls and ended their season with a disappointing 58-53 loss to Osage City in the sub-state semifinals Friday at Hesston.
The disappointment was not so much losing to Osage City, a team that came in with a 20-1 record and No. 5 ranking in Class 3A.
It was knowing the outcome might have been different had the Trojans (12-10) not slipped back into some of the bad habits that undermined their potential though various stretches of the season.
“We kind of regressed-taking quick shots after only one pass, or not even passing but going up and taking shots,” coach Melissa Stenfors said. “Those are things we did early in the season. That’s what’s frustrating. You think you’ve gotten past that, and then you fall right back into it again.
“We’re a better team than that. We deserved better.”
The Indians scored the first six points of the game even before the Trojans got off their first shot, thanks to turnovers.
JuliAnne Chisholm finally broke the ice for Hillsboro when she was fouled driving for a layup and made a free throw at the 6:31 mark. Osage City led 18-13 after one quarter.
The game turned in the second quarter as the Indians outscored Hillsboro 9-4 even though Osage City committed six turnovers and made only one one of seven free throws during the period.
Hillsboro’s 2-for-15 shooting and lack of enthusiasm for rebounding was a key reason.
“We just didn’t come out with intensity,” Stenfors said. “We got outrebounded in the first half, which killed us. They went to the free-throw line many times. We needed to attack and get to the line, but we didn’t.”
When Osage City methodically extended its lead to 38-22 with three minutes left in the third quarter, the Trojans’ Lora Andrews, Audrey Weinbrenner and Chisholm scored consecutive baskets over a 42-second span to cut the lead to 10.
But Osage scored the last four points of the period to lead 42-28 at the final break.
The Indians appeared to have the game well in hand when they built their largest lead of the night at 51-33 midway through the fourth quarter.
But a basket by Amanda Faber with 4:27 left seemed to flip a switch for the Trojans, who launched an amazing 20-7 run down the stretch. Faber, who came in off the bench, poured in 11 points during the final period.
Osage City contributed to Hillsboro’s rally with five turnovers and 3-for-10 free-throw shooting over the final four minutes.
Unfortunately for Hillsboro, the game ended about 30 seconds too soon for the Trojans to make a complete recovery.
Weinbrenner saved her best games for sub-state, finishing as the Trojans’ top scorer with 13 points after an eight-point performance on Tuesday Faber added 12 points for the night and Chisholm 10.
The one-two punch of Miranda Bryan and Latie Buenger each scored 30 for the Indians.
As a team, the Trojans shot 38 percent from the floor (23-61), including 3-for-18 (17 percent) from behind the 3-point line. The Indians made 44 percent (22-50), including one of six 3-point attempts.
Osage City also had a huge edge at the free-throw line-although neither team shot well. The Indians made 13 of 33 attempts (39 percent) while Hillsboro made four of 12 (33 percent).
The Trojans committed 25 turnovers to 20 for the Indians.
“They wanted it more,” Stenfors said of Osage City. “They went after every loose ball. They were much more aggressive. They deserved to win the first half.”
Hillsboro 61, Marion 37
Hillsboro used a 12-point edge in the second quarter as a springboard to a solid win over Marion in the opening round of sub-state play Tuesday in Hillsboro.
The first quarter was almost a draw, but a 6-2 Hillsboro surge over the last 3:19 gave the Trojans a 12-8 edge at the first buzzer.
The Trojans took control during the next period. Audrey Weinbrenner started the surge with a 15-footer 24 seconds into the quarter and ended it with a 17-footer at the halftime buzzer.
In between, JuliAnne Chisholm scored six points and Tina Frick, Lora Andrews and Jessica Heidel each added two to boost Hillsboro’s lead to 28-12.
On the other end, the Trojans limited the Warriors to 2-for-13 shooting for the quarter and 6-for-26 (23 percent) for the half.
Marion made a run at the Trojans to start the third quarter. A 3-pointer by Erin Carr and a free throw and layup by Allie Maddox pulled the Warriors to within 13 points, 31-18, at the 5:00 mark.
After Hillsboro’s Amy Neufeld made a pair of free throws, Maddox drained a 3-pointer from the corner to bring Marion as close as it would get at 33-21.
After Chisholm scored, Toni Gordon brought the margin back to 12 one last time with a pair of free throws with 2:59 left in the period.
Weinbrenner then hit a 17-footer that ignited an 8-2 run to push the lead to 44-25 at the final break.
The Trojans removed all doubt about the outcome with a 6-0 run to start the fourth quarter. When Heidel scored in the paint with 2:36 left, Hillsboro had its biggest lead of the night at 59-33.
Chisholm led all scorers with 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the field and a perfect 4-for-4 from the line. Neufeld add 11 and Weinbrenner finished with eight points. Both were 4-for-4 from the field.
Gordon and Maddox closed their MHS careers with 12-point performances to lead the Warriors.
For the game, the Trojans shot 54 percent (25-46) from the floor and made 11 of 17 free throws. Marion shot 29 percent (13-45) and made eight of 16 free throws.
“We’re doing things right,” said Trojan coach Melissa Stenfors. “We’re getting some great shots. Places where we struggled against the zone in the past, now we’re getting more aggressive.
“There was a little stretch (in the third quarter) where I thought we were playing not to lose rather than playing to win, and (Marion) got the lead down to 12. But we turned it back on, started reversing the ball and attacking on the dribble a little bit more.
“Juli did a great job of getting in there and be explosive. She’s covers a lot of ground with a minimal amount of dribbles. That was nice.”