ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The Hillsboro boys shut down one half of Sunrise Academy’s one-two scoring punch during their Trojan Classic finale on Saturday. But the other half of the Buffaloes’ dynamic duo delivered a knockout punch in the bout for fifth place.
Bret Michael threw a flurry of 38 points at the Trojans to lead the Buffaloes to a 66-59 victory in a game that was close until the end.
Michael, a 6-foot guard, pummeled the Trojans by connecting on 12 of 22 shots from the field, including three of six 3-points, then added 11 of 12 free throws to complete his assault.
Even so, the Trojans went toe-to-toe with the Buffaloes until the final minute of the game. Hillsboro led 15-14 after one quarter, then trailed 31-27 at halftime, thanks in part to 11 points from Michael during the second period.
Hillsboro tied the score at 31 in the opening 40 seconds of the third quarter when Lucas Hamm and Daniel Jost scored back-to-back layups off of steals.
The Trojans led briefly a couple of minutes later when Hamm scored in the paint for a 35-33 edge. But Sunrise took advantage of a couple of Hillsboro turnovers to move back in front with a 6-0 surge with 4:27 left in the period.
As the fourth quarter began, the Trojans were down by three, 49-46. Despite committing four turnovers in their first six possession, Hillsboro managed to pull within one point, 51-50, when Troy Frick sank a pair of free throws with 3:53 to go.
Then, with Sunrise leading 55-52, Jost scored a basket with 2:18 to go and Frick was fouled on the play away from the ball. The senior sank two more free throws to give Hillsboro a 56-55 lead.
But the Trojans managed only three points the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Michael scored nine of the Buffaloes’ 11 points in the final 2:04 to nail down the seven-point victory.
“He played really well today,” Hillsboro coach Darrel Knoll said of the Buffalo standout. “I thought Lucas did a better job on him than anybody else. (Michael is) strong to the basket, he has a nice shot from the outside. He’s a good player.”
While Michael enjoyed a scoring feast against the Trojans, teammate Daniel Krause, a 6-4 forward-post who had scored 17 and 27 points in his two previous tournament games, was held to nine points.
Hamm’s defense was a significant reason for Krause’s lean diet, and his 21 points led the Trojans on offense. The senior made nine of 15 shots from the field and also pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.
Spencer Brown chipped in a season-high 11 points as Hillsboro shot a solid 54 percent (21-39) from the field. The Buffaloes were close behind at 52 percent (22-42).
Knoll said the game swung on his team’s 19 turnovers.
“Some of them they forced, but for the most part a lot of our turnovers were that we didn’t take care of (the ball),” he said.
“For the most part-if we didn’t turn the ball over and give up the transition points-we played a pretty decent game,” he added. “I thought we rebounded pretty well, as physical as it was in the first half.
“If we’d just be more consistent, we’d win games,” said Knoll, whose team dropped to 4-6. “We’re so inconsistent right now-we give up so much in a hurry.”
Wamego-Hillsboro bounced back from its fourth-quarter debacle on Tuesday to post a hard-fought 52-43 win against Wamego in the consolation semifinals on Thursday.
Lucas Hamm gave Hillsboro a strong early boost, scoring 15 of his team-high 20 points by halftime-despite sitting out several minutes of the first quarter after picking up his second foul.
With six points from Hamm, the Trojans posted a 12-8 lead after one quarter. But the senior simply took over the game in the opening minutes of the second quarter, scoring inside and from behind the arc.
“Lucas played a much better game tonight, more his kind of game-not trying to do so much actually allowed him to do more,” coach Darrel Knoll said.
“It was good we could keep him in the game because he really was playing well. He had his rhythm and took good shots.”
Despite Hamm’s productivity, the Trojans actually lost ground in the second period as Wamego cut Hillsboro’s four-point first-quarter margin to two points by outscoring the Trojans 17-15.
But with a good team effort, Hillsboro outscored the Red Raiders 12-7 in the third quarter and 13-11 in the final period to notch the nine-point victory.
The outcome would not have been that close had the Trojans been more proficient at the free-throw line. Hillsboro missed almost as many as it made, finishing with 12 makes in 23 attempts.
The Trojans actually shot the same percentage (52) from the field as it did from the line, making 19 of 35 shots from the floor.
Sophomore Daniel Jost provided some strong support on offense, making five of seven shots from the field and three of four free throws to finish with 13 points.
On defense, Hillsboro limited Wamego to 36 percent shooting (14-39) and forced 19 turnovers while committing only 11.
“The last game (on Tuesday) we played decently for three quarters,” Knoll said. “I think we learned a lot from the last quarter. I thought we were much more patient once we broke the press tonight.
“I thought Wamego played hard and I was pleased with how hard we played tonight,” he added. “I thought we moved the ball better and got better shots.”
Republic County-Foul trouble, turnovers and some questionable officiating combined for the “perfect storm” that sank Hillsboro’s title hopes with a 45-42 first-round loss to Republic County on Tuesday.
The Trojans seemed to be on their way to victory after building a 36-24 lead through three quarters of play.
But two things happened at the outset of the final period that proved to be omens of disaster: Hillsboro turned the ball over on the initial possession of the period, and Republic County’s Gary Roberts cashed in with a layup seconds later.
Before the quarter was over, Hillsboro had committed nine turnovers and Roberts had scored 13 of his game-high 18 points.
The storm built intensity as time elapsed. When Lucas Hamm picked up his fifth foul on a charging call with 5:15 left in the game, the Trojans were leading, 38-32. When Troy Frick fouled out on a charging call with 2:55 to go, the lead was still 40-34.
But with two productive seniors planted on the bench, no one stepped up to counteract the productivity of Roberts, who scored five unanswered points-three off of steals-in a little over a minute after Frick took his seat.
A pair of free throws from Spencer Brown was all the offense Hillsboro could manage in the final three minutes. The two tosses gave HHS a 42-39 lead with 1:13 to go.
Hillsboro’s Darren Enns recovered a Republic County loose ball moments later, but an official interpreted his effort to gain control of the ball as a dribble, then called double-dribble when Enns put the ball to the floor again with 55 seconds to play.
Fifteen seconds later Kyle Durflinger completed a tradition three-point play when he was fouled while scoring in the paint. Roberts added another layup after a steal five seconds after that.
Suddenly, Republic County led for the first time since the final seconds of the first quarter at 44-42 with only 22 seconds left.
The Trojans came up empty on three cracks at the basket during their next possession, then were called for a foul while scrambling for one more rebound.
With 3.8 seconds left, Durflinger made the first of two free throws to push Hillsboro to the brink. But his second toss missed the mark, Hillsboro rebounded and called an immediate timeout with 3.6 seconds showing and at least the hope of a game-tying 3-pointer.
When play resumed, Brown, the Trojans’ football quarterback this fall, threw a baseline pass two-thirds the length of the floor. Aaron Stepanek grabbed the loose ball and got off an off-balanced shot from behind the arc.
But the ball caromed off the rim as the buzzer sounded, securing the Buffalo victory.
Daniel Jost was the only Trojan to break double digits by scoring 11. Hamm and Frick each added eight before fouling out.
The Trojans committed 21 turnovers to the Buffaloes’ 10, which translated to six points for Hillsboro and 22 for Republic County.
Coming-Hillsboro (4-6) was scheduled to play host to Ellinwood on Tuesday for a game that was postponed because of weather Jan. 12. On Friday the Trojans travel to Marion for an intra-county matchup with the 6-4 Warriors. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m.