The Hillsboro girls capped an outstanding basketball season with a gutty fourth-quarter rally that carried them to 42-38 victory over No. 1 seeded Atchison County in the third-place consolation contest at the Class 3A state tournament in Hutchinson.
With Hillsboro trailing 32-26 near the midway mark of the final quarter, senior Callie Serene drained a huge 3-point basket from the wing with 4:21 to play, then followed it 11 seconds later with a 2-pointer after an Atchison turnover to pull HHS to within a point at 32-31.
After Atchison made a rare miss at the free-throw line — they had made 13 of 14 attempts prior to that point — Hillsboro rebounded and got the tying point on a free throw by Stephanie Sanders with 3:46 to go.
After Atchison grabbed the lead once more at 37-36 with 2:33 to play, Serene hit another big 3-point shot from the corner with 1:57 left. Sanders had a chance to tie the game with 58 seconds left, but missed the front end of one-and-one. Courtney Weber rebounded the miss, and got the ball back to Sanders, who was fouled with 48.5 seconds left. The senior made one of two free throws.
Coming off the miss, Tara Ellerman, Atchison?s 6-foot-1 senior, dribbled the length of the court, bowling over Hillsboro?s 5-7 guard Danae Bina on a her drive to the basket. The officials called the clear charge, and Serene was fouled on the ensuing inbounds pass. She made both double-bonus free throws to expand the Trojan lead to 40-36 with 30.2 seconds to play.
Ellerman had a chance to cut the lead in half, but missed the front end of a one-and-one at the other end. The Tigers? 6-0 Allison Wallisch grabbed the rebound, but her putback attempt was blocked out of bounds with 18.2 seconds left.
Ellerman then scored off the inbounds pass to give Atchison hope with 18 seconds left. Serene appeared to have a layup at the other end, but her shot was blocked out of bounds with 14.4 left. She was then fouled on the inbounds pass and made the second of two free throws to give HHS a 3-point cushion with 12.5 seconds left to play. After Ellerman was called for traveling, Sanders was fouled and added one last point at the free-throw line with 1.3 seconds to go for the four-point win.
Hillsboro looked strong out of the gate with Lackey hitting a 2-pointer and 3-pointer and Krista Reimer adding a pair of 2-point basket for an early 9-2 lead. But by the end of the period, Atchison was within 11-8.
Hillsboro stepped into a funk as the second quarter began, missing all seven of its shots and committing four turnovers. Atchison appeared to takeover the game with an 11-0 run that ended when Serene scored and added a bonus free throw with 2:13 left in the half to pull the Trojans back to within 19-14. The margin remained five points, 21-16, as the quarter ended.
In the third period, the Tigers expanded their lead to 28-10 with less than a minute left. But Reimer scored on a putback with 25 seconds left and Weber hit a 10-footer in the final second after Ellerman was whistled for an illegal screen that returned possession to HHS.
Serene finished the game and her Trojan hoops career with a 16-point performance to lead all scorers. Lackey added 11 points to go with a team-high six rebounds and five assists. As a team, the Trojans shot just a hair above 30 percent from the floor and made seven of 12 free throws.
Wallisch led the Tigers with 12 points and Ellerman added 10 as Atchison County shot just under 39 percent (12-31) as a team, but at the line they made 13 of 16 attempts for the contest.
The taller Tigers enjoyed a 35-26 edge in rebounding, but the Trojans committed only 11 turnovers while forcing 23 by Atchison County.
With the win Hillsboro earns its second consecutive third-place finish at state and secures a 23-3 mark for the season.