The 2A Basketball State Championship Trophy came home to Hillsboro after the Trojans beat Wabaunsee, 59-50, in the state championship game in Manhattan on Saturday.

The title is the fourth under Head Coach Darrel Knoll, and the first since 1998 for Hillsboro who culminated an amazing season with a 23-3 record on the year.

“I am so happy for our players. The team has been resilient all year.” Knoll said. “I am tremendously proud of the seniors and happy for them. Being state champions is a great way to end a high school career! Each of them made key contributions to our success and have improved each year they were in our program. I will miss coaching them and am sure they will do well in whatever they choose to do.”

The road wasn’t easy for Hillsboro. They came back big in the sub-state championship game, down 10 with seven minutes left in the final quarter. Once at state, Hillsboro overcame Belle Plaine, 63-47, in the first round, and then Lyndon, 51-45, before facing off against Wabaunsee in the final.

“Wabaunsee is an excellent team who was playing with lots of confidence and great momentum, so we knew we needed to play solid offense and defense,” Knoll said.

They did just that, starting the game on an 18-10 run. Things got dicey in the second quarter though, and Wabaunsee put a run together.

“We struggled the second quarter making shots and had some uncharacteristic turnovers,” Knoll said.

Hillsboro survived the run though and went into halftime up, 37-31.

The Trojans played Wabaunsee to a stalemate in the third quarter, before putting together a five point margin to close the game and clinch their title.

Matthew Potucek led the way with 17 points and four rebounds to go along with four huge blocks. He wasn’t the only one in double figures though with Brekyn Ratzlaff pitching in 16 points and give rebounds and Grayson Ratzlaff notching 14 points, nine rebounds and three steals.

It wasn’t the offense that likely led Hillsboro to the title though according to Knoll.

“Our defensive intensity was able to take teams out of their rhythm and force tough shots all year,” he said. “We only allowed 41.8 points per game, and forced 17.8 turnovers a game. I love the tenacity and the resolve of this team and the fact that we played great team basketball.”

In the semi-finals against Lyndon, Hillsboro got down early, 16-14, but went on a 17-3 run to close the half to go up, 31-19. Lyndon fought back hard in the third quarter, holding Hillsboro to just seven points, but Lyndon didn’t have enough in the fourth quarter to complete the comeback and win the game.

Brekyn Ratzlaff had 14 points to lead Hillsboro in scoring while Matthew Potucek had nine points and 10 rebounds on the game. Grayson went for 11 points and three rebounds to go along with two steals.

Against Belle Plaine in the first round, Hillsboro got up 14-11 in the first quarter, but put the defensive clamps on in the second, holding Belle Plaine to just two points and closing the half up 30-13. Belle Plaine never got enough of a run together in the second to overtake Hillsboro’s comfortable lead.

“What a tremendous team defensive effort,” Knoll said. “We had several steals the first half and we did a great job containing drives and contesting shots. Solid minutes from everyone who played tonight.”

Potucek led the way with 18 points and four rebounds. Grayson Ratzlaff had 14 and nine rebounds as the only other Trojan in double-figures on the game.

Those playing in the championship game for Hillsboro were: Brekyn Ratzlaff, Dillon Boldt, Matthew Potucek, Tristan Reed, Grayson Ratlaff, Frank Wichert, Duncan Duell, and Carson Linnens.

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