Hillsboro split a pair of games with Southeast of Saline Thursday night. The HHS girls survived a back-and-forth, low-scoring affair, 27-24, while the undefeated HHS boys, recently ranked ninth in Class 2A by the Kansas Basketball Association, let an eight-point lead midway through the fourth quarter slip through their fingers for their first defeat of the season, 57-53, against the seventh-ranked team in Class 3A.
GIRLS — Hillsboro never trailed through the first half as both team struggled to score points. For SES, the biggest problem was turnovers, with 11 in the first quarter and 15 by halftime. Hillsboro, meanwhile, couldn’t get the ball in the basket. Hillsboro made three of 14 shots in the first quarter for a 7-5 lead.
By halftime, the hometown Trojans still clung to a two-point lead at 13-11. Unofficially, Hillsboro made five of 24 shots in the half (21 percent accuracy) while the visiting Trojans shot 26 percent (5-19).
SES took its first lead of the night when Kylee Thaxton scored in the paint for a 17-16 edge. By the end of the third period, Hillsboro led 18-17 on a basket by Paige Proffitt with 23 seconds left.
The game seemed to turn Hillsboro’s way for good when Abby Sechrist hit a 6-foot jumper with 1:43 to play and Rebecca Kaufman followed with a three-point basket for a 25-22 lead with 55 seconds to play.
But SES responded with two free throws in four attempts to pull within a point at 25-24. Hillsboro then missed the front end of three consecutive one-and-one free-throw opportunities over a span of 23 seconds. The score remained 25-24 before Sienna Kaufman was fouled with 4.3 seconds left and made both free throws for the 27-24 win.
Rebecca Kaufman led the team with 12 points and Sienna Kaufman added six as Hillsboro improved its record to 3-2 for the season. As a team, Hillsboro finished with 20 percent shooting (9-45) from the floor and SES was only slightly better at 23 percent (10-43).
BOYS — The first half of the boys’ game resembled the girls’ game in the sense of limited scoring — Hillsboro led 17-16 at halftime — but the tempo of the game was quicker and more physical.
SES jumped to a 5-0 lead before Hillsboro finally broke the ice on a pair of free throws by Elias Werth with just over 3:00 left in the first period. By the end of the period, the visiting Trojans led the home team, 9-6. By halftime SES still led, 17-16.
Hillsboro came out of intermission on fire offensively, piecing together a 14-7 surge in the first 4:43 to build a 30-24 lead after a steal and basket by Preston Loewen. By the end of the third quarter, Hillsboro led 39-34.
The home team maintained control of the contest as the final quarter began. In fact, when Loewen hit a 12-foot jumper with 5:19 left, Hillsboro led by eight points, 46-38.
But SES did not give up, despite missing six consecutive free throws over the next 1:30. After calling a timeout, Southeast turned up its defensive pressure, scoring layups on back-to-back steals to ignite a 14-0 run that propelled Southeast back into the lead at 48-46 with 2:43 to play. Hillsboro never fully recovered, unable to get a shot to drop until Werth scored in the final seconds for a 57-53 final score. Darian Ratzlaff led Hillsboro with 15 points and Preston Loewen added 12 as Hillsboro slipped to 4-1 for the season.
COMING — Hillsboro will complete its pre-holiday schedule with games at Marion on Tuesday.