Trojans lose a pair of close games at Pratt

The Hillsboro Trojans traveled a long way Friday only to discover disappointment at the end of the trail with a pair of close defeats at Pratt. The Hillsboro girls lost a 43-39 decision to the Greenbacks, while the Trojan boys absorbed a 40-38 heartbreaker.

GIRLS — It appeared Hills­boro’s fate would be determined early as the Trojans found themselves in an 11-2 hole midway through the first quarter; the deficit grew to 17-6 by the time the quarter ended.

But the Trojans did not fold. Fueled by 10 points from Mesa Merrell in the second quarter, Hillsboro pulled into a 25-25 tie at halftime. Rebecca Kaufman scored two consecutive baskets in the final 21 seconds of the half to tie the game.

Hillsboro’s comeback began to crumble during a third quarter in which the Trojans turned the ball over 12 times against Pratt’s defensive pressure. Hillsboro managed only seven shots at the basket, but made three of them. Hillsboro’s defense kept the Trojans close, limiting the home team to two baskets and two free throws.

With Pratt leading 37-32 heading into the fourth quarter, the Trojans’ struggle on offense intensified, missing nine of their first 10 shots and turning the ball over five more times. Down 41-35 with just over a minute to play, Hillsboro made a final move. Sienna Kaufman scored in the paint, then Abby Sechrist forced a Pratt turnover and turned it into two points for her team to pull within 41-39. Another Trojan turnover and two missed shots down the stretch, combined with two critical free throws by Pratt’s Danielle Staats with 6.5 seconds to play sealed the Trojans’ fate.

Merrell took scoring honors for Hillsboro with 15 points. Unofficially, the Trojans shot 40 percent from the floor (16-40) but turned the ball over 32 times. Pratt shot 50 percent (14-28) from the field and turned the ball over 23 times.

With the loss, Hillsboro slipped to 0-4 in the league and 5-10 overall. Pratt improved to 1-3 in the league and 3-9 overall.

BOYS — The game was close from start to finish, thanks to aggressive defense by both teams. Hillsboro took a 12-11 lead at the end of the first quarter when Preston Loewen scored at the buzzer.

By halftime, Hillsboro remained on top, 20-17, but led by as many as six points when Darian Ratzlaff opened the third quarter with a three. The Trojans looked like they might take charge when Ratzlaff Ratzlaff hit a second three and Carson Herbel add a two-point basket. Pratt didn’t lose much ground though, answering with five points over the same span.

Unfortunately, Hillsboro momentarily lost its shooting touch and Pratt did not. When Noah Myers scored at the 2:37 mark of the third quarter, the home team was back in front, 29-28. The Greenbacks maintained the one-point lead as the quarter ended at 32-31.

The fourth quarter proved to be the turning points. Pratt pushed its one-point lead to seven points with an 8-2 surge at the start. After Elias Werth hit a three with 1:12 left in the game, the Trojans were handed an opportunity to climb back into contention when Pratt was called for a technical foul for unsportsmanslike conduct after a huge blocked shot and foul.

With Hillsboro trailing, 40-33, with 27.1 seconds remaining, Loewen went to the line to shoot the first two free throws, but uncharacteristically missed both of them. Joe Knoll then went to the line for the next two and drained them both to pull the Trojans to within two points. Awarded possession as well, Hillsboro had a chance to win or tie the game in the final seconds. But Pratt’s defense refused to allow Hillsboro’s shooters an open look; the game ended when Ratzlaff’s off-balance three-point shot missed the mark.

Ratzlaff led the Trojans with 11 points. Pratt was led by Samson Kohman, the Greenbacks’ 6-feet-4-inch athletic leaper who scored 19 points, including two impressive slam dunks.

The loss drops Hillsboro to 10-4 overall and 4-1 in the CKL. Pratt improves to 4-1 in the league and 11-3 for the season.

COMING — Hillsboro will host Lyons on Tuesday and Kingman next Friday.

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