Just when it appeared the Hillsboro girls were going have that unexplainable bad game that every coach dreads, the Trojans woke up in dramatic fashion to beat Nickerson by a comfortable margin of 46-37 Friday night in Brown Gymnasium.
When Claire Childs scored for Nickerson with 31 seconds left in the third quarter, the Panthers enjoyed their largest lead of the night at 31-19, and Hillsboro had shown no sign over the past two quarters of waking up from a prolonged stretch of listless play.
Even when Hillsboro?s Franny Gottsch sank two free throws with 19.1 seconds left in the third quarter to make the score 31-21 at the break, Trojan fans were probably praying for some kind of miracle to see a come back against a pretty athletic Panther team.
Well, they got that miracle. Hillsboro suddenly awoke from its lethargy and, showing renewed spunk on both ends of the court, scored 20 unanswered points. It took them barely 4 minutes to turn the 12-point deficit into a 39-31 lead, thanks to what turned out to be a 22-0 run.
When Nickerson?s Baye Harper finally broke the streak with a free throw at the 3:28 mark, the game was all but over as the Trojans maintained control until the final buzzer.
Dakota Kaufman scored 23 to pace Hillsboro, but freshman Tena Loewen made several key hustle plays early in the run that seemed to pour gas on the fire. Also contributing big time was Gottsch with 6-for-8 free-throw shooting over the last nine minutes of the contest.
As has been their trademark in most games of late, Hillsboro came out strong at the start of the game, working the ball inside to Kaufman, who scored all nine points in a 9-2 surge. By the end of the quarter it was 9-4, but by halftime Nickerson led 16-15. After three quarters the Panthers had pushed the lead to 31-21. Over the second and third quarters, HHS shot 3-for-20 from the field and committed nine turnovers.
With the win, Hillsboro improved to 13-4 for the year and remained tied with Collegiate for the MCAA lead at 8-0. Nickerson, meanwhile, dropped to 10-7 and 6-2.
The Hillsboro boys seemed mismatched against the Panthers from the start, eventually dropping 55-22 decision with the continuous-clock rule in effect for most of the final quarter.
Troy Smith, Nickerson?s 6-foot-6 senior, was a huge matchup problem for the Trojans. Smith and his teammates exploited it for 25 points for the night, including Nickerson?s first 10 of the game. After one quarter, Hillsboro trailed 12-3. The lead grew to 33-9 by halftime and 46-17 after three quarters.
Nickerson?s lead actually hit the 30-point mark (41-14) with 2:05 left in the third quarter. But the clock rule is in effect only in the final period — which happened when Nickerson hit the 30 mark again 14 seconds into the final stanza on a basket by Smith.
For the game, Hillsboro managed only 9-for-35 shooting from the floor (26 percent) and no individual player scored more than four points. HHS?is now 2-15 for the year and 0-8 in league play while Nickerson is 11-7 and 4-4.
(Free Press photos by Don Ratzlaff)