Hillsboro escapes with two wins against lowly Nickerson

The Hillsboro basketball teams claimed a pair of wins from a pair of hard-luck Nickerson basketball teams Tuesday night at Nickerson. The Trojan girls trailed the winless Panthers for almost the entire first half before waking up in the second half to secure a 49-33 victory. For the Trojan boys, it was more a harrowing escape. The two-win Panthers launched what could have been the winning three-point basket in the final second, but the ball caromed off the front of the rim as the buzzer sounded to preserve Hillsboro?s hard-fought 58-56 win.

GIRLS — When the two teams met in the season-opener, Hillsboro prevailed by 26 points. But the Trojan team that took the court Tuesday struggled mightily through the first two quarters of this rematch. Nicker?son?s Bryanna Herman hit three three-point baskets in the first 4:00 as the home team built a 9-2 lead. Allison Evans added a fourth three with 1:55 left to give the Panthers a 14-8 lead at the first break. Two baskets by Abby Sechrist within a 30-second span fueled a Trojan mini-run toward the end of the quarter.

With Nickerson leading 17-13 midway through the second quarter, Callie Lin?nens and Darcy Heinrichs each hit a pair of free throws and Mesa Merrell drained a three-point shot with 22 second left in the half to pull Hillsboro into a 20-20 tie at intermission.

Merrell then lit Hills?boro?s fuse when she opened the third quarter with a three-pointer in the first 21 seconds. Heinrichs followed with a traditional three-point play at the 6:52 mark to put Hillsboro ahead by six.

At that point, Alex Ratzlaff, who struggled through the first half with only five points, rediscovered her shooting touch. The junior hit back-to-back baskets, and Linnens followed with a put-back after Ratzlaff missed a free throw to give Hillsboro a 32-20 lead with 2:19 left in the period. The Trojans led 34-22 at the final break, holding the home team to two points while forcing seven turnovers during the quarter.

Nickerson never made a serious run in the final quarter and Hillsboro nailed down the 16-point victory. Ratzlaff finished with 21 points and Sechrist chipped in a career-high 10 as Hillsboro improved its record to 6-8 for the season. The Panthers slipped to 0-14.

BOYS — Hillsboro?s 22-point win in early December was soon forgotten as the Trojans fought for their lives against a physical and motivated Panther squad.

Hillsboro trailed the Panthers 15-11 after one quarter and 28-20 at the half, thanks in part to foul trouble that limited Micah Allen?s minutes — and his scoring. Defensively, Hillsboro struggled to slow the Panthers? aggressive attacks on the basket by their guards.

Hillsboro came out of halftime looking rejuvenated. The Trojans outscored the Panthers 11-2 through the first four minutes to establish their first lead since the early seconds at 31-30. In the final 1:27 Allen hit back-to-back threes and then two of three free throws when he was fouled on a three-point attempt. That put Hillsboro on top 43-36 as the quarter ended.

When Allen picked up his fourth foul at the 7:14 mark of the fourth period, you could sense a shift in the wind. At the 3:44 mark, officials called a technical foul on Nickerson?s Austin O?Toole when he put up a shot long after a whistle stopped play because he was fouled. O?Toole hit both of his free throws, but Trojan fans weren?t panicking with a 49-45 lead and Allen going to the line to shoot two free throws for the technical.

Uncharacteristically, Allen missed both freebies. When Allen fouled out at the 3:00 mark, Panther fans were on their feet, sensing a winning rally. When O?Toole scored at the 1:45 mark, the game was tied at 50. Elias Werth responded with a layup five seconds later, but missed the bonus free throw when he was fouled.

That put Hillsboro into a free-throw contest — against themselves — for the final 1:02. The Trojans made only six of 10 opportunities. With 4.5 seconds left in the game and Hillsboro leading by two, Braden Stewart took the inbounds pass, raced down the court and launched what proved to be a heart-breaking near-miss for the home fans.

After a slow start, and despite multiple minutes on the bench because of foul trouble, Allen finished with 21 points to lead Hillsboro, who improved to 9-5 for the year. O?Toole finished with a game-high 29 for Nickerson, who slipped to 2-12.

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