The Hillsboro boys overcame early foul trouble, 20 turnovers and an inspired Little River team to escape with a 54-50 win in the first round of sub-state play Tuesday at Brown Gymnasium.
The Trojans, seeded third, were caught flat-footed in the early going by a quick and determined Redskin team. Hillsboro trailed 6-2 before finally scoring a field goal on a steal-and-score by Elias Werth at the 5:24 mark.
Four consecutive turn?overs later, the Trojans trailed 9-4. But Joe Knoll responded with a huge three-point basket from the wing. It was the first of four consecutive three-point baskets for Hillsboro. When Werth drained the fourth one in the final second, the Trojans enjoyed their first lead of the night at 15-14.
Hillsboro?s Jacob Funk started the second quarter with an old-fashioned three-point play, but the Redskins rallied to tie the score at 18-18 at the 5:19 mark. With Austin Cross in early foul trouble, Wesley Shaw came off the bench and scored three consecutive baskets over a 2-minute stretch to give the Trojans a 24-22 lead. Then, with the scored tied at 25, Knoll stole the ball in the back court and drove the length of the floor for a layup and a bonus free throw with 27.2 seconds left in the half. It was enough to give Hillsboro a 29-26 lead at intermission.
With two baskets by Darian Ratzlaff and one by Cross, Hillsboro enjoyed its biggest lead at 35-28 midway through the third period. But Little River refused to back down. With the score 39-32, Jeb Sauer intercepted a Trojan pass and scored with 2 seconds left. He missed the bonus free throw, giving Hillsboro a 39-36 lead as the quarter ended.
Two turnovers and two missed shots by Hillsboro to start the fourth quarter opened the door for Little River. Guard Levi Swenson, cashed in both steals, then added a basket in the paint to give his team a 42-39 lead with 6:04 to play.
After a Trojan timeout, both Cross and Werth scored to regain the lead at 43-42. Little River countered with a basket to take its last lead at 44-43 with 4:50 left. Needing a shot in the arm, Carson Herbel stepped for Hillsboro by hitting a huge 15-foot basket. Knoll then drained another three-pointer 35 seconds later for a 48-44 Trojan lead at the 3:38 mark.
Little River got as close as 52-50 when Sauer drained a three-pointer with 20 seconds left. After a Redskin timeout, the Trojans turned the ball over when Knoll stepped on the sideline trying to break the Redskin press. When Sauer missed the game-tying shot, Cross pulled down a huge rebound, was fouled and then converted both ends of a one-and-one with 6.6 seconds to play to secure the victory.
Knoll ended the evening as Hillsboro?s leading scorer with 13 points. Cross added 12 and Ratzlaff 10 as the Trojans advance to the second round of sub-state with a 14-7 record. Little River?s season ends at 9-12.
Hillsboro will play Moundridge (15-6) in Friday?s semifinal game at Ell-Saline High School. Game time is yet to be determined.