Bench sparks girls to 43-34 victory

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
It was a game only a mother could love. The Hillsboro girls overcame poor shooting, ragged play and a major foul-fest in the second half to post a 43-34 win over the host team in the first round of pool play at the Cheney Classic on Monday night.

Although the Cardinals already had one game under their belt, both teams struggled to find some rhythm in their play during a low-scoring first half.

When the halftime buzzer sounded, Hillsboro led by a meager 15-14 margin. The Trojans suffered through 27 percent shooting (6-22) from the field while the Cardinals struggled even more at 19 percent (4-21).

For all the shortcomings of the first two quarters, nobody was prepared for a third quarter that definitely turned foul for the Trojans, who sent the Cardinals to the line 19 times. Cheney made 11 to keep the game tied at 29-29.

Hillsboro started the fourth quarter with three of their core seniors-JuliAnne Chisholm, Tina Frick and Hannah Marsh-on the bench because of foul trouble. Marsh, in fact, already had fouled out with 2:22 left in the period.

Ironically, with five reserves on the court, Hillsboro played perhaps its best basketball of the night through the first four minutes of the final quarter.

Freshman point guard Candace Weinbrenner accounted for three points and junior Amy Neufeld added four as Hillsboro used solid passing and good defense to build a 36-31 lead with 4:29 to go.

Whereas Hillsboro sent Cheney to the line in the third quarter, the Cardinals returned the favor in the fourth quarter. The Trojans shot 15 free throws and canned 10 of them to nail down the nine-point victory.

Coach Dale Honeck could only shake his head at game where both teams shot 30 free throws apiece with Hillsboro making 16 and Cheney 18.

The difference came in field-goal shooting. Hillsboro finished with a lukewarm 35 percent (13-37), but Cheney managed only 21 percent (8-38).

“It was ugly-both sides,” Honeck said with a chuckle. “Our field-goal percentage the first half was just horrendous. Nothing looks good when you don’t put the ball in the hole.”

Honeck praised the way his bench stepped up when the Trojan starters found themselves in foul trouble during the second half.

“With Tina (Frick) and Juli out of there a huge part of that second half, the kids really did well,” he said.

“Amy and Dakota (Kaufman) did really well coming off the bench, and (Candace) Weinbrenner played as good as I could have possibly expected a freshman to play.

“When the chips were down, and we had the kids that should have been leading us sitting on the bench, those kids brought us back, gave us a lead, and never gave us a deficit.”

Chisholm led Hillsboro with 14 points, but Weinbrenner came off the bench to chip in 11 points in her varsity debut.

“I’m really pleased with the girls,” Honeck said. “They really played their hearts out. We really needed this (win) to get moving.”

Hillsboro will take its victory home as the Trojans play host to Smoky Valley in the second round of pool play on Friday. The game will tip off at 6 p.m.

The tournament then returns to Cheney on Saturday as teams play for plaques based on their pool records.

Hillsboro, Smoky Valley and Cheney comprise one pool while Winfield, Clearwater and Chaparral play in the other pool.

The fifth-place game will start at 11 a.m., the third-place game at 2:30 p.m. and the championship game at 6 p.m.

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