Sophomore Tena Loewen poured in 22 points to fuel a focused Hillsboro girls? team to a third-place finish Saturday at the Class 3A state tournament in Hutchinson with an impressive 53-27 win over Thomas More Prep.
From the start, there was no doubt who wanted this basketball game more.
Loewen scored a pair of free throws on a foul off the opening tip, Addie Lackey followed with a lay-in on an assist from Krista Reimer and then Reimer herself scored to give HHS a 6-0 lead only 2:21 into the contest and set a tone for the rest of the contest.
The Trojans pushed their early lead to 12-3 on a Loewen basket with 2:25 left in the period before TMP scored five points in the final 1:36 to close the period at 12-8.
Throttling a TMP squad with defensive pressure, the Trojans limited the Monarchs to 1-for-13 shooting in the second quarter and forced three turnovers as they built a 24-12 lead by intermission. Loewen contributed 14 points in the opening half and Lackey added six.
To their credit, the Trojans didn?t take their foot off the gas in second half. Hillsboro forced turnovers on TMP?s first five possessions of the third quarter while adding four more points to the lead.
After Hillsboro committed three straight turnovers, they regrouped during a timeout, then came back to build a 34-19 lead by the end of the third quarter.
The Trojans saved the best for last, outscoring TMP 19-8 in the final frame to roll to the 26-point victory that more than avenged an overtime loss to the Monarchs back in January at the Trojan Classic.
Beyond her scoring and double-digit rebounding (10), Loewen contributed her third outstanding defensive game of the tournament against the opponents? best player. This time it was Rachel Jacobs who struggled, managing only nine points for TMP as the Monarchs ended its season with a 20-6 record.
In addition to claiming the first state plaque since the 2007 championship, Hillsboro?s young squad finished with a 21-5 record — the most wins since 2007 (23-3) and, before that, the most since the 1996 state championship team (24-2).
After the presentation of medals following the game, the team sang ?Happy Birthday? to coach Nathan Hiebert.