Trojans win state game, tournament canceled due to COVID-19 concerns

The Hillsboro Trojan bench and crowd respond to the first lead of the night with the promise of victory in sight. The HHS Trojans beat the top-seeded Skyline Thunderbirds in the quarterfinals for State Basketball.
Dillon Boldt (Junior #3) goes for a layup from a pass by Matthew Potucek (Sophomore #5).

There is a reason they play the games. Despite being a No. 8 seed up against the favorite, No. 1 seeded Pratt Skyline, the Hillsboro Boys Basketball team came back in the fourth quarter to steal a victory, 57-51, in the first round of the Class 2A State Championship Tournament.

For all the wonder that was the comeback, the cancelation of the tournament due to Covid-19 concerns were equally unreal for Hillsboro players and fans.

“As far as the tournament goes, we are highly disappointed. We feel like we had a good chance to continue our run in the tournament, and the season feels incomplete the way it ended,” Head Coach Darrel Knoll said. “On the positive, we finished the season with a gritty performance that thrilled the entire community. I am so proud of the team and of how they continually improved throughout the season. I loved how we continued to complete through adversity and in the face of tough circumstances.”

When the buzzer sounded and the celebration in the locker room concluded the players had no idea their season would end with those cheers.

“There is a lot of teams that don’t get to end on a win, but it is really hard to think about how far we could have gone,” Senior, Caleb Potucek said. “The team was playing our best basketball the last two games, and the whole goal in playing is to win a state championship. To put in all that work and never see the end result is really hard.”

Caleb’s little brother and teammate agreed.

“Hey, yeah the game was probably the funnest game I’ve been a part of just cause where it was and how we came back and won and beat the one seed, and then I thought it was cool how Caleb scored at the end to put us ahead and kinda seal the win,” Matthew Potucek said. “It was good to end the year on a win but pretty disappointing not being able to finish since we all knew we could’ve won it all.”

While the players nor the community will ever know how the rest of the tournament would have gone, they both can have pride in the comeback that happened that day in Manhattan.

Down 15-2 after the first quarter, the Trojans began to claw back. They outscored Pratt-Skyline 17-11 to close out the half, but were down 26-19 still. A close third quarter didn’t see Hillsboro gain any ground, but the Trojans exploded offensively to close out the game with a 21-7 run to comeback and win the game.

“Well this was a big game for all of us and we were all a little nervous. After halftime we got a couple of big steals and we started making some easy baskets. In the fourth quarter we couldn’t be stopped and went on a 9-0 to finish off the game,” junior, Dillon Boldt said.

Boldt played 25 minutes and had seven points and three rebounds in the contest. Matthew Potucek led the team with 16 points and seven rebounds, while his older brother chipped in 11 points on the game.

“We really needed to just keep playing at the end no matter the circumstances,” Caleb said. “It was going back and forth for most of the game. We did a good job of keeping our heads. I felt like our defense and taking care of the ball really helped us especially at the final minutes of the game.”

He made his coach proud.

“I am also so happy that Caleb Potucek was able to come back from his injury and play two of his greatest games to finish career. I love his determination, selflessness and toughness. I will miss coaching him,” Knoll said. “I also want to thank the school and community for their support—tremendous fan support made the environment awesome.”

Caleb is the only senior on the team and while his run was cut short due to the cancelation Boldt hopes the rest of the team can regroup and make another run.

“It’s nice to end on a big win but it’s pretty disappointing knowing that we were two wins away from being state champions and we aren’t going to get any recognition for how far we made it,” he said. “It’s really weird to think that our season didn’t end on a loss but instead ending from something way out of our control. I’m still pretty disappointed about it being canceled but all I can focus on is making sure we get another opportunity to play at Bramlage again next year.”

Above: Hillsboro High School student body and cheerleaders rallied school spirit for the Trojans as they came from behind to win the quarterfinal against the Skyline Thunderbirds.

Left Below: With only 26 seconds left in the 4th quarter, Matthew Potucek (Sophomore #5) hit his brother Caleb Potucek (Senior #22) inside the paint.  As the Skyline guard collapsed on him, Caleb took the ball up obtaining the foul and score to secure the Trojan lead.

Right Below: The Hillsboro Trojan bench and crowd respond to the first lead of the night with the promise of victory in sight. The HHS Trojans beat the top seeded Skyline Thunderbirds in the quarterfinals for State Basketball.