ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
A pair of free throws in the final 10 seconds proved to be the difference Friday in a matchup between league-leading rivals as the Hesston girls prevailed over Hillsboro, 44-41, for a home-court victory.
In the end, the difference came down to field-goal shooting. Hesston put up 10 fewer shots for the game, but made 48 percent (16-35), while Hillsboro made 33 percent for the game (15-45) and only 25 percent (5-20) in the second half.
“Our shooting wasn’t real good,” coach Dale Honeck said, “so you have to try to stay in the game with some kind of defense. We did pretty well with that, but you’ve got to put the ball in the hole.”
Lora Andrews put Hillsboro ahead with the first basket of the contest, but by the end of the opening quarter, the Swathers were on top, 14-11.
The Trojans regained the lead at 22-20 midway through the second period when JuliAnne Chisholm stole the ball and scored. Hesston came right back with a 2-pointer by Grace Easter and 3-point basket by Julia Carlton to go ahead by three.
But a basket by Samantha Soyez and a pair of free throws from Tina Frick gave Hillsboro a halftime lead of 26-25. The two teams combined for 0-for-7 shooting in the final two minutes of the quarter.
In what turned out to be an omen of things to come, Hillsboro missed its first four shots of the second half and committed a pair of turnovers as Hesston climbed back on top, 29-26.
Hillsboro tied the score at 29 when Hannah Marsh scored a traditional three-point play with 5:22 left in the quarter.
With 3-pointers from Taylor Raleigh and Kylie Pauls, the Swathers then went on a 10-4 surge to grab their largest lead of the night at 39-33. Chisholm’s basket with 16 seconds left cut the margin to 39-35 at the final break.
Both teams struggled for points in the fourth quarter. A basket by Marsh and a pair of free throws by Chisholm offset another 3-pointer from Raleigh midway through the period as Hesston clung to a 42-39 lead heading into the home stretch.
Then, with 1:12 to go, Soyez drained a 3-point basket from NBA range to tie the game.
“I thought that was going to be it,” Honeck said of the shot. “I thought we’d get (the victory).”
Hesston ran the clock down to 13.8 seconds before calling a timeout. Frick then fouled a driving Lauren Raleigh in the paint with 10.4 seconds left, and the Hesston senior calmly nailed both free throws for what turned out to be the winning points.
Hillsboro managed one last shot, but Chisholm’s 15-footer with 2 seconds to go caromed off the rim.
“I don’t have a lot of second guesses,” Honeck said afterward. “We tried as many things as we could and nothing worked any better than anything else.”
Chisholm led the Trojan attack with 14 points while Lauren Raleigh scored nine points to lead a balanced scoring effort by Hesston.
The loss dropped to Hillsboro to 11-3 overall and 5-1 in league play. Hesston improved to 10-4 and 4-1,
“We’re still in the lead in the conference,” Honeck said. “If we see these guys again it will be a sub-state game, it won’t be here.
“Our girls don’t have anything to be ashamed of, they need to keep their heads up. (Hesston) lost to Smoky and they’re going to lose again. But they were ready for us. It was a good basketball game.”
Haven-Hillsboro’s offense was as smooth and balanced has it has been all season, but coach Dale Honeck was mostly excited about the defense his team played in a 54-23 pounding of a decent Haven squad Tuesday at Brown Gymnasium.
“Our defense was everything for us,” Honeck said. “It’s getting to the point where we can do some things with it. We do quick changes and the kids are aggressive with it. That’s really good.
“We’re able to change so fast now that other teams aren’t able to make the changes with us. That’s what our hope was.”
For the game, the Trojans (5-0, 11-2) harassed the Wildcats into 25 percent shooting (9-36) and 18 turnovers.
Haven (3-2, 7-6) managed only one field goal through the first 7:26 of the game. By then, the Trojans had rolled up a 15-2 lead with five players contributing points.
At the first break, the lead was 17-7. By halftime, Hillsboro had extended it to 34-14 on 60 percent shooting (15-25) for the first two quarters while holding Haven under 32 percent (6-19).
While Hillsboro’s shooting cooled in the second half (33 percent), defense enabled the Trojans to extend the lead even further.
By the end of the three quarters the margin was 47-21. When Amanda Faber hit one of two free throws with 6:51 left in the game, Hillsboro led by 30 points and the league’s continuous-clock rule kicked in.
Amy Neufeld came off the bench to score 12 points to take game scoring honors. Hannah Marsh added 10 points and JuliAnne Chisholm and Tina Frick each added eight.
Hunsberger hit a pair of 3-pointers to give her a team-high six points.
“The girls played really well,” Honeck said. “And we had good scoring coming off the bench. I was proud of them all.”
Coming-Hillsboro was scheduled for a pair of home games this week. The Trojans took on Wichita Collegiate (5-1, 9-5) in a non-league rematch on Tuesday and will play host to Sterling (2-3, 5-9) on Friday.
Hillsboro hits the road next Tuesday with a contest at Nickerson (2-3, 5-8).