Hillsboro boys advance to Classic finals; HHS girls will play for fifth

Hillsboro boys advanced to the championship game of the Trojan Classic Friday with a 51-41 win over Republic County in a game that featured more guts than glory for the 11-1 Trojans. Meanwhile, the Hillsboro girls ended a five-game losing streak with a 36-15 win over a Bennington team that managed only four field goals the entire game. The win puts the Trojans into the fifth-place game on Saturday.

GIRLS — Through the first quarter it appeared neither Hillsboro nor Benning­ton could manufacture enough points to earn a victory. The Bulldogs scored their first and only field goal of the quarter at the 3:13 mark, shortly after Mesa Merrell hit Hillsboro’s only field goal — a three-pointer — with 2:11 left. Bennington shot 1-for-12 from the floor while Hillsboro made one of nine attempts.

The second quarter was following the same trail when Hillsboro coach Nathan Hiebert called a timeout at the 5:44 mark. Coming out of the break, the Trojans were suddenly on fire, led by Merrell, who hit three consecutive shots — two of them threes — over a one-minute explosion. Abby Sechrist and Rebecca Kauf­man each added baskets and when the first half ended, Hillsboro was leading 16-8.

The game’s outcome was never in doubt as the Tro­jans outscored Bennington 16-4 in the third quarter and 4-3 in the fourth quarter for the final 21-point victory.

Merrell finished with a career-high 16 points, one point more than Benning­ton’s entire team. Rebecca Kaufman added 11 and Abby Sechrist eight. As a team, the Tigers shot 4-for-37 from the floor (11 percent) while the Trojans made six of 23 attempts (29 percent).

On Saturday, Hillsboro will play for fifth place against Sunrise Academy starting at 11:30 a.m. in Brown Gymnasium.

BOYS — The Trojans shifted from winning pretty in their tournament opener against Clay Center to winning gritty against a physical Republic County team in the semifinals.

Hillsboro started slowly on offense and actually trailed the Buffaloes 7-4 when Republic’s Nick Allsman hit a three at the 2:41 mark. But the Trojans responded with a three from Joe Knoll, a pair free throws from Braden Vogt and a three-pointer from Elias Werth to jump in front 12-7 with that 8-0 run to end the quarter.

In the second quarter, Hillsboro did most of its damage from the free-throw line, making seven of nine freebies while managing only three field goal. Republic County, meanwhile, managed only three baskets in 11 attempts and made only one of four free throws, which enabled Hillsboro to lead, 25-14, at intermission.

The two teams offset each other in the third quarter, but it took a three-pointer from Darien Ratzlaff at the buzzer to give Hillsboro a 34-24 lead at the end.

The Buffaloes inched to within six points of the Trojans after scoring the first two baskets of the fourth quarter. But Wes Shaw scored on a put-back and Ratzlaff followed with a three-pointer from the corner to inflate the margin back to nine. Down the stretch, Hillsboro’s Elias Werth drained two more threes to help thwart Republic County’s comeback efforts.

Werth ended up being the game’s high scorer with 16 points. He was the only player on either team to break double digits. As a team, Hillsboro shot 31 percent (14-45) from the field while the Buffaloes made 35 percent (17-48) of their attempts. Hillsboro had a 15-5 scoring advantage from the free-throw line.

On Saturday, Hillsboro, ranked No. 9 in Class 2A, will take on Hesston, ranked No. 2 in Class 3A, in the championship game, which is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. in Brown Gymnasium.


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