Hillsboro teams sweep Moundridge to open tournament play

Hillsboro’s basketball teams got off to a strong start at the Moundridge Pre-Season Tournament on Tuesday. Both teams came away with victories against the host school.

For the Trojan girls, it was a huge turn of fortune claiming a 41-33 victory over the Wildcats only four days after suffering a 32-point loss against Sterling. For the Trojan boys, it was one more barn-burner when the outcome literally was determined in the finals seconds of a 52-51 victory.

GIRLS—Hillsboro’s aggressive defense kept the Trojans close to Moundridge in the early going. Offensively, the Trojans missed all 11 of their field-goal attempts in the first quarter, but with three made free-throws in six attempts, Hillsboro was still in eyesight of Moundridge, who led 10-3 when the quarter ended.

The Trojans didn’t score a field goal until the 3:58 mark of the second quarter when senior Abby Sechrist scored on a put-back of a Trinity Marler miss. Trailing 12-8 at that point, Hillsboro suddenly found its shooting touch. Eva Franz hit a 2-pointer and freshman Teegan Werth hit back-to-back 3-pointers to vault the Trojans into a 16-14 lead at halftime.

With senior Sienna Kaufman scoring eight points in the third period, plus one more 3-pointer by Werth in the final seconds, Hillsboro led 29-22 at the final break.

Hillsboro outscored the Wildcats 12-11 in the final quarter and, at least for the freshmen, the Trojans not only celebrated their first victory of the season but of their varsity careers.

Kaufman led the charge, scoring 15 points. Werth’s four 3-point baskets accounted for 12 points, and Malm added eight. As a team, Hillsboro made 14 of 44 shots from the floor (32 percent) and nine of 18 free-throws.

BOYS—In a rematch of the Class 2A sub-state championship teams from last spring, the two teams picked off right where they left off: a knock-down, drag-out battle between two talented teams, with Hillsboro barely emerging as the victor.

The Trojans fell behind 11-5 about midway through the first quarter. But a basket by Brodie Rathbone, plus Elias Werth’s back-to-back 2-pointer and 3-pointer helped narrow Moundridge’s lead to two points at 17-15 when the quarter ended.

Darian Ratzlaff scored back-to-back baskets, with a bonus free-throw on the second one—enabling the Trojans to take their first lead of the night, 20-17, at the 6:28 mark of the quarter. Two more baskets by Werth and one by Wes Shaw knotted the game at 26 as intermission arrived.

The two teams more or less traded points and the lead through most of the third quarter. But with Hillsboro leading, 37-33, in the final 1:30 of the period, Moundridge got a 3-point basket from their sharp-shooting senior, Noah Eichelberger, followed by a 2-pointer from their junior deadeye, Dillon Vogts, to take a 38-37 lead as the buzzer sounded.

The seesaw battle continued through the fourth quarter. When Eichelberger hit a deep 3 with 1:57 left in the game, Moundridge took a 48-47 lead. Hillsboro scored to retake the lead, but it slipped away again when Eichel­berger was fouled on an inbounds play under the Wildcat basket—and made both free throws.

Now trailing by two points at 51-49, Coach Darrel Knoll immediately called a timeout with 18.2 seconds left. Coming out of the huddle, Werth stepped up big with a 3-pointer that gave Hillsboro its 52-51 lead. Moundridge quickly called a timeout with 4.2 seconds showing on the clock.

Moundridge got the inbounds pass to Vogts, who headed up the court and launched the final shot—only to have it deflected at the last instant by Werth. Time expired and Hillsboro secured the victory.

Werth led the Trojans with 17 points and Ratzlaff added 16, but it was Vogts and Eichelberger who took game honors with 28 and 22 points, respectively.

COMING—On Thursday, Hillsboro’s teams will match up with Lyons on the second day of the tournament. The girls’ game starts at 4 p.m. and the boys game around 5:30 p.m.