HHS boys advance to Classic finals, HHS girls will play for third

The Hillsboro basketball teams will be facing different destinations on Saturday, following the outcomes of their semifinal games against Clay Center on Friday night.

The Trojan girls went scoreless for nearly 13 minutes at the start of the game and dug a hole from which they could not escape in a 39-18 loss to Tigers.

The Trojan boys, meanwhile, established an impressive lead by the end of the first quarter, then lost it midway through the third quarter. Fortun­ately for Trojans fans, the home team rediscovered its scoring touch in the fourth quarter and pulled out a 54-48 victory and earned a place in the championship game tomorrow.

GIRLS—Coming off an impressive offensive performance Thursday in their win over Sunrise Academy, the Trojans suffered perhaps their worst offensive performances of the season against Clay Center.

Hillsboro’s downfall wasn’t just poor shooting, because the Trojans launched only five shots the entire first quarter. Instead it was their 11 turnovers in the opening quarter. The Tigers took advantage of the miscues and posted a 13-0 lead as the quarter ended.

The drought continued until the 5:15 mark of the second quarter when senior Abby Sechrist drove the lane and scored Hillsboro’s first basket. Teegan Werth managed a layup with 1:26 left in the first half for a 20-4 deficit by halftime. The situation could have been worse—but the Tigers committed seven turnovers and shot only 3-for-11 from the floor during the quarter for the lackluster score.

Both teams struggled offensively during the second half. Clay Center led 28-10 after three quarters and finished with a 21-point victory to advance to the finals on Saturday.

Sienna Kaufman led the Trojans scoring with eight points, Werth added 5. As a team, the Trojans shot a season-low 17 percent from the floor and dropped to 7-5 for the season. Clay Center wasn’t much more productive, making only 27 percent of their shots.

Hillsboro girls will play Holcomb for third place with a 2:30 p.m. scheduled start in the high school gym.

BOYS—The Trojans came out of the opening gate like Tiger hunters. Elias Werth scored three 3-point baskets and a 2-pointer, and Wes Shaw added eight points to propel Hillsboro to a 19-6 lead by the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter started the same way. Werth hit a 3-pointer and Shaw a 2-pointer for a 24-11 score at the 6:28 mark. Hillsboro then stepped into the Twilight Zone where nobody’s shots were going in the basket. Shaw did nail a 3-pointer at the 1:57 mark for a halftime score of 27-20 with the Trojans in front.

Hillsboro’s shooting funk refused to lift as the third quarter began. The Trojans launched 14 shots from the floor but only four passed through the basket. Mean­while, the Tigers made eight of 18 field-goal attempts to take a 38-35 lead as the quarter ended.

Good team leaders rise to the occasion. Darian Ratzlaff, who was quiet in the first half, hit two baskets late in the third quarter, then started the fourth quarter with a 2- and 3-pointer in the first 1:38 of the final quarter. When he then added a free throw at the 5:45 mark, to Hillsboro was within 42-41. Both teams struggled to score over the next two minutes, but when Caleb Rempel drove the lane for a 2-point basket with an assist from Werth, Hillsboro pulled even at 43 with 3:28 to play.

Ratzlaff stuck again — this time a 3-point dagger in the heart of the Tigers with 2:56 to play. The Tigers hit a dry hole of their own, and managed only more three points before the final buzzer. Meanwhile, Shaw contributed a 3-point play at 1:21 and the Trojans drained five free-throws down the stretch to nail down the six-point victory.

Shaw led the Trojans with 17 points, Werth added 16 and Ratzlaff finished with 13 as Hillsboro improved to 11-1 for the season. The Trojans will play Holcomb for the championship at 7:30 p.m. in the high school gym.