The Hillsboro girls took a huge step toward their first Trojan Classic title with an impressive 52-34 victory over previously undefeated Hesston in a semifinals matchup of state-ranked teams.
After his team?s slow start against No. 8-seeded Thomas More Prep on Tuesday, Coach Nathan Hiebert said the Trojans would need to start strong if they were going to beat good teams.
He got a good start tonight, and Hillsboro did beat a good team. The Swathers came in ranked No. 4 in Class 4A by the Kansas Association of Basket?ball Coaches, and Hillsboro came in as the No. 4 team in 3A at 10-1.
Senior Maci Schlehuber set the tone, scoring in the lane on an assist by Addie Lackey off the opening tipoff. On the defensive end, the Trojans forced turnovers on four of Hesston?s first six possessions; the other two possessions ended with a one-and-done missed shot.
Meanwhile, Hillsboro got a basket by Tena Loewen, but struggled to score until Addie Lackey cashed in at the 3:12 mark to bump the lead to 4-2. Danae Bina followed with a three-point basket, Loewen added 10-footer and Christina Morris hit a pair of free throws to give Hillsboro a 13-6 lead as the quarter ended.
When Schlehuber hit back-to-back three-pointers to start the second quarter the Trojans seemed to be in the driver?s seat. But the Trojans went dry on the scoring end for the next four minutes, and Hesston narrowed the lead to 19-12. Bina and Maddie Duerksen then hit consecutive shots and Loewen added a pair of free throws for a 6-0 run that ended the first half with a 25-12 Trojan lead.
For the second night in a row, the third quarter was Hillsboro?s most productive. One basket by Bina and two by Lackey in the first three minutes pushed the lead to 31-12. Then Hesston found some success going inside to their 6-foot-1 sophomore, Kelsey Unruh, who scored six of Hesston?s 13 points in the last half of the quarter. But the Swathers still trailed by 16 at the final break, 41-25.
Hesston?s Ashley Weaver started the final period with a three-pointer, but the Trojans short-circuited any momentum switch with a 6-0 run on two baskets by Loewen and one by Lackey. Leading 47-28 with 3:52 to go, Hillsboro played out the remaining time without a Swather threat.
Loewen led all scorers with 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the floor and 4-of-5 from the free-throw stripe. Bina added 11 points and Lackey 10. As a team, the Trojans outshot the Swathers, 53 percent (20-38, including 3-of-4 behind the arc) to 27 percent (10-37, including 2-of-14 from three).
Unruh, the only Swather in double figures, finished with 14 points.
Hillsboro will play for the Classic championship with a start time around 6:15 p.m. Saturday. The Trojans will play the winner of Friday?s semifinals game between undefeated Wamego and undefeated Republic County.