The fate of Hillsboro’s basketball teams reflected the level of their tournament seedings on the opening night of the Trojan Classic on Tuesday. The Hillsboro girls, seeded sixth, faced the No. 3 seed, state-ranked Hesston, and endured a 55-21 struggle that finished with a running clock. Meanwhile, the No. 2 seeded Trojan boys handled Clay Center impressively, posting a 63-36 victory against the No. 7 seed.
GIRLS — The Trojans, who came into the game with 3-7 record and a four-game losing streak, needed Divine intervention to defeat a talented Swather squad. But it was not to be. Hesston jumped to an 8-0 lead in the first 2:30 and rolled on to a 16-2 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Hillsboro started the second quarter with turnovers on their first three possessions while Hesston responded with back-to-back threes, plus a two-point basket, to inflate the lead to 24-2 at the 5:48 mark. Trinity Malm’s free throw broke Hillsboro’s scoring drought seconds later, and Savannah Unruh added a three-pointer at the 5:00 mark to pull to within 24-6. By the time the second quarter was complete, though, Hesston led 32-11.
The Trojans came out sharp to start the second half as Sienna Kaufman and Abby Sechrist scored easily on designed plays and Mesa Merrel added a basket in the paint to bring the score to 36-17 with 5:18 left in the quarter. Unfortunately, Hillsboro managed only one more basket the rest of the period, putting the margin at 46-19 after three quarters.
The running clock went into effect at the 6:00 mark of the final quarter, and the Swathers finished the game with a 55-21 cushion.
Sienna Kaufman led the Trojans with six points while Merrell and Unruh each added five. Hesston’s Elise Kaiser led all scorers with 18 points. As a team, the Trojans shot 24.2 percent (8-33) from the field while the Swathers shot 45.6 percent (21-46).
Hillsboro will face Bennington, who lost its first round game to No. 2 seeded Riley County (49-29) at 6 p.m. Friday in the Tabor College gymnasium. Hesston will face Riley County in the championship semifinals.
BOYS — Starting the game with a masterful effort on both ends of the court propelled the Trojans to their 27-point win over the Tigers.
Hillsboro led 8-2 before the game was three minutes old. By the end of the first quarter, the Trojans were up 21-10. Hillsboro made eight of 11 shots in the quarter while limiting Clay Center to three baskets on six shots. On defense, the Trojans forced six Tiger six turnovers.
Hillsboro continued the trend the rest of the game and never hit a prolonged scoring drought. By halftime, the Trojans were up 33-17 and by the end of the third quarter the margin was 52-28. The Trojans added an 11-8 edge to win the final quarter, but the strongest reaction of the night was a prolonged roar by the hometown fans when senior Garrett Funk, making his first varsity appearance, nailed his first-ever shot attempt, to give the Trojans a 62-36 advantage.
Preston Loewen led the Trojans with 15 points. Joe Knoll came off the bench to add 11. Nine Trojans contributed to the final score. As a team, Hillsboro shot 45 percent (23-51) for the game, one of their best outings of the season, while limiting the Tigers to 24 percent (10-42).
The Trojans move on to the championship semifinals, where they will take on Republic County, a 55-52 winner over Sunrise Christian Academy, with a scheduled start of 7:30 p.m. in Brown Gymnasium.