Hillsboro boys battled back from an eight-point halftime deficit to force overtime and ultimately claim a 44-43 nail-biter victory over Moundridge in Thursday’s Class 2A sub-state tournament semifinals at Canton-Galva.
It was a typical hard-fought battle between these two foes. Moundridge scored 18 seconds into the contest. The Trojans didn’t score until Preston Loewen hit a 15-foot jumper at the 2:10 mark, but the Wildcats’ lead was only 5-2. Each team scored one more basket before ending the quarter with a 7-4 score.
In the second quarter, Moundridge pushed the lead to 17-11 mostly on free throws. By the end of the quarter, the Wildcats led 23-15 based mostly on its 8-for-8 shooting from the charity stripe. Hillsboro, meanwhile, missed its last six shots over the final 2:50.
Elias Werth scored the first bucket 24 seconds into the third quarter. Despite four ensuing turnovers and a blocked shot in the first four minutes, the Trojans were down only by a 25-17 count. Joe Knoll then hit a three at the 3:12 mark, Wes Shaw added a basket and a free throw and Carson Herbel made one of two free throws with 2.6 seconds left to pull Hillsboro within 27-24 score with one quarter to play.
If the Trojans seemed tight in the first half, they looked most like their normal selves in the final period. Werth scored eight points, including two three-point baskets. Darian Ratzlaff added a three and Shaw hit a huge 15-foot basket with 59 seconds left to put the Trojans in front 37-35. But Noah Eichelberger responded with a 5-foot jumper with 28 second left to tie the game. Werth got off a last-second three-point shot but it missed the mark, forcing overtime.
Moundridge took the lead six seconds in, on a basket by Otte. But when Darian Ratzlaff drained a step-back three from the top of the key, Hillsboro grabbed momentum and a 40-39 lead with 1:43 to play. Two more free throws by Eichelberger gave the Wildcats what turned out to be their final lead of the night with 1:26 to play at 41-40.
Loewen nailed a 15-foot jumper with 1:10 to play and Braden Vogt scored deep in the paint on a sweet assist from Ratzlaff for a 44-41 lead with 30 seconds to go. Otte brought his team within one point on a basket with 5 second to play. Following an immediate timeout by Moundridge, the Trojans faced a precarious inbounds play on the Wildcat baseline. Werth managed to grab the short inbound pass and was fouled with 1.9 seconds on the clock. The junior missed the one-and-one, but it didn’t really matter as the buzzer sounded during a desperation heave by Moundridge.
Werth led the Trojans with 12 points and Ratzlaff finished with 10 as the Trojans improved to 16-6 — and more importantly, claimed berth in the championship game on Saturday against Lyndon, who defeated Inman by 10 points also in overtime. Game time will be 7:30 p.m. Saturday with a state berth on the line.