Just when it appeared the Hillsboro girls were going to have that inexplicably bad game that every coach and fan dreads, the Trojans woke up in dramatic fashion to beat Nickerson 46-37 Friday night in Brown Gymna?sium.
Claire Childs? free throw with 31 seconds left in the third quarter had given the Panthers 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 lethargic play.
Even when Hillsboro?s Franny Gottsch sank two free throws 12 seconds later to make the score 31-21 at the break, fans? only hope was to pray for a miracle if there was to be any chance of a comeback against a pretty athletic Panther squad.
The prayers were answered. Hillsboro suddenly awoke as the fourth quarter began, showing spunk on both ends of the court. It took the Trojans barely four minutes to turn that 10-point deficit into a 39-31 lead, thanks to what turned out to be a 22-0 run before Nickerson?s Baye Harper finally broke the streak with a free throw at the 3:28 mark.
Coach Nathan Hiebert said he was pleased how his starters responded to his challenge between the third and fourth quarters.
?The thing we stand on is that we come out and make an effort,? he said. ?The second and third quarters, we didn?t have it. We kind of expected things to happen, we were timid.
?At the quarter I was yelling, ?I?m going to find five girls that will go out and play as hard as they can, and I don?t care who it is. I?m going to get the five who are going to bust their tail.?
?I was proud that the five girls who are my starters are the ones who got after it,? he added. ?We caught (Nickerson) off guard and good things just started happening.?
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.
?Tena had her hand on the ball, she was diving on the floor, she?s on the floor with the ball and looking for someone to get it to so we can keep our break going?that was big,? Hiebert said.
Gottsch?s 6-for-8 free-throw shooting over the last nine minutes of the game was huge, too.
?Franny did a better job in that fourth quarter with her intensity and decision making?and she knocked free throws down,? he said.
This game started as most have. Hillsboro came out strong, working the ball inside to Kaufman, who scored all nine points in a 9-2 surge.
By the end of the quarter the score was 9-4, but by halftime Nickerson led 16-15. After three quarters the Panthers had pushed the lead to 10. Over those middle two 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. Nicker?son, meanwhile, dropped to 10-7 and 6-2.
Haven?In a game that was more workman-like than work of art, Hillsboro claimed a 36-23 victory at Haven Tuesday.
In the early going, the Trojans looked like they?d stick a lickin? on a pretty decent Haven squad, pushing to a 9-0 lead when Candace Weinbrenner completed a traditional three-point play with 1:27 left in the opening period.
But Haven stepped up with five points in the final 26 seconds of the period?a 3-pointer by Sheridan Stefanski followed by two free throws after she was fouled while tossing up a shot at the buzzer.
The second quarter started well enough for Hillsboro when Dakota Kaufman scored 15 seconds in. But the Trojans hit a bumpy stretch of three turn?overs and 0-for-3 shooting that empowered an 8-0 surge that carried Haven into the lead at 13-11 with 4:36 left in the half.
Baskets by Hillsboro?s Tena Loewen and Becky Faber proved to be the only points either team scored before halftime, as the Trojans took a 15-13 lead into the locker room.
The two teams played almost evenly in the third period, which ended with Hillsboro nudging the lead to 24-20. But the Trojans lowered the boom defensively in the final period, allowing Haven only one basket in eight shots. That was enough for Hillsboro to push the final margin to 13 points at the end.
Kaufman led all scorers with 15 points while Stefanski finished with 11 to pace Haven. As a team, Hillsboro shot 39 percent from the floor (14-36) while limiting theWildcats to 22 percent success (8-36).
Coming?The Mid-Central Activities Association championship will be determined in the coming week. If Hillsboro was able to get past Ellinwood Tuesday, they will face a talented Marion squad Thursday that is 7-1 in the league and 13-3 overall.
Regardless of the outcome of that game, the Trojans (13-4, 8-0) can secure at least a share of the MCAA title if they can upset top-ranked Collegiate (15-1, 8-0) next Tuesday in Brown Gymna?sium.
Both games will start around 6 p.m.