Smothering. There?s no better word to describe the Hillsboro girls? defense in Friday night?s 61-27 semifinal blitkrieg of Sedgwick at the Class 3A sub-state tournament at Sterling.
The Trojans used 12 Sedgwick turnovers in the first quarter to fuel a 22-2 lead at the break. By halftime, the turnover count was up to 18 and Hillsboro?s lead was 34-7.
Candace Weinbrenner registered seven steals in the half, and Dakota Kaufman cashed in several fast-break baskets to lead the scoring charge with 14 points. Perhaps the most impressive stat of all: Sedgwick managed only five field-goal attempts in the entire half.
?Our pressure had to be a key and our rebounding had to be a key,? coach Nathan Hiebert said. ?We were outsized in a lot of areas. I knew if we could pressure, they wouldn?t get a lot of opportunities. As for rebounding, we got a lot of second opportunties and they didn?t get many.?
Just when the Cardinals started to compete on the offense end to start the third quarter, their emerging confidence wilted under a barrage of six 3-point bombs as the Trojans suddenly expanded their arsenal. Allie Faul hit two straight treys to start the quarter while Callie Serene hit three and Courtney Weber one in the final 2:35 to complete the 6-for-6 long-range performance.
With Hillsboro leading 56-22 heading into the fourth quarter, the continuous clock kicked in, and Hiebert pulled his starters with 5:44 to go.
?We have a lot of games where we play a really good first quarter, then let down a bit,? Hiebert said. ?But I didn?t feel like we did that tonight. (Sedgwick) made a couple of buckets in the second quarter, but I told the girls if you?re playing that hard, the other team is going to make a bucket here or there. But I was proud how we finished the game.?
Kaufman finished with 14 points to pace the Trojans, who made 55 percent of their shots (22-40) while Sedgwick made 45 percent (10-22). The Cardinals finished with 22 turnovers.
?We knew they struggle a bit bringing down the ball,? Hiebert said. ?When they get in the half court they?re a much better team because not many teams can match up to their size.?
The win improves Hillsboro?s season record to 17-5 while Sedgwick finished 10-12. The Trojans will play Remington at 6 p.m. Saturday for a state-tournament berth.
(Free Press photos by Don Ratzlaff)