It was agony and ecstacy for the Hillsboro basketball teams on the final night of the Moundridge Pre-Season Tournament.
Facing the host school’s team for the tournament title, the Trojan girls’ dream of a championship plaque evaporated amid an offensive drought in the second half. But the Trojan boys, meanwhile, rallied from a 14-point deficit early in the second half to upset the Wildcat boys and claim the tournament title with a three-point win.
GIRLS — Hillsboro battled the hometown girls blow for blow in the first half. The Trojans found much of their success on offense in the paint while the Wildcat girls did most their damage with long-range shooting.
Moundridge’s Lexi Lorimor drained her first three-pointer a mere 18 seconds into the contest. Two more threes, one from Ellen Durst and a second from Lorimor, lifted the home team to a 12-11 lead as the first quarter ended. Mesa Merrell provided five points and Rebecca Kaufman four to pace the Trojans.
The two teams battled on even terms through the second quarter. When Sienna Kaufman drained a three-pointer from the top of the key with 2:07 left in the period, Hillsboro trailed, 19-16. Little did the Trojans know it would be their last successful field goal until Abby Sechrist scored on a rebound with 42 seconds left in the fourth quarter—a span of 17:35.
Despite a strong showing on defense all game long, Hillsboro’s meager ration of six made free throws on 12 attempts left the Trojans on the short end of a 42-24 final score. Mesa Merrell and Sienna Kaufman led the team in scoring with five points each.
The loss evened Hillsboro’s season record to 2-2.
BOYS – Hillsboro ran into a buzz saw at the very start as Moundridge exploded for 9-0 run in the first 3:15 of the contest. The home team’s lead grew to 22-10 by the end of the first quarter and reached a game-high 14 points 40 seconds into the second quarter.
Hillsboro was still trailing by 14 at 29-15 when Braden Vogt hit the third of his four first-half three-point baskets at the 2:55 mark. He added a two-pointer and his fourth three-pointer in the final seconds of the first half to pull the Trojans to within 30-24 by halftime.
Hillsboro missed its first four shots of the second half before the tide began to turn. When Carson Herbel hit a free throw at the 5:57 mark, Hillsboro launched a 10-2 run — including back-to-back threes by Joe Knoll — to take a 33-32 lead with 2:57 left in the third quarter.
Moundridge countered with a three-pointer from Lantonio Unruh and a traditional three-point play by Dylan Sugars to take a 40-34 lead. But Sugars was whistled for a technical foul after the call. Knoll drained both technical free-throws to make the score 40-36 as the third period ended.
Hillsboro saved its best punch for last. Senior Preston Loewen drained a three at the 6:35 mark, and a free throw from Darian Ratzlaff tied the game at 40 with 5:35 to play. Elias Werth followed with a pair of charities that gave Hillsboro its first lead of the night.
When Loewen nailed another three and Werth scored on a drive into the lane, Hillsboro led, 47-42. The home team managed one more basket with 22 seconds to play, but it was the Trojans who celebrated a 47-44 signature victory to improve to 4-0 on the season.
Vogt led the Trojans with 14 points, all scored in the first half; Loewen tossed in 11.