For the second time in two games, the Hillsboro boys battled a physically stronger team only to come up on the short end of the final score.
Coming off a loss to a talented Smoky Valley at home on Tuesday, the Trojans lost to an undefeated Sterling team, 48-41, in the Black Bear?s den.
?I thought we played really hard,? coach Darrel Knoll said. ?We can?t fault our effort, by any means.?
Clearly outsized by the home team, Hillsboro managed to stay in contention in what became a hard-fought, physical battle.
Sterling?s 6-foot-4-inch post Austin Maxwell looked like he might dominate the Trojans when he scored the first two baskets of the game almost at will.
But Ben Bebermeyer struck back with a three-pointer for HHS to set the competitive tone for the rest of the night. Maxwell scored again later in the period to help Sterling to an 11-8 lead after the first period.
The second quarter followed a similar back-and-forth struggle. Sterling edged further ahead, but a steal and bucket by Evan Ollenburger in the final seconds pulled HHS back to within four points at intermission, 22-18.
Seven Trojans contributed points in the low-scoring half.
Maxwell started the third period like he did the first, with two dominating baskets. But HHS again refused to wilt. Back-to-back threes from Brett Wein?bren?ner and Bebermeyer midway through the period brought the Trojans to within a bucket at 30-28.
Unfortunately, the Trojans then turned the ball over three times and made only one of their next five shots through the end of the quarter and trailed 36-31 at the final break.
Through the first five minutes of the final period, the turnovers (four) and tough shooting (0-6) continued. When Bebermeyer finally scored Hills?boro?s first basket of the period, HHS trailed, 41-34.
The Trojans battled back to within one possession when Luke Moore hit a 5-footer with 30 seconds to play to make the score 44-41. But Sterling?s Seth Humphreys and Maxwell combined for four straight free-throws to seal the victory.
Bebermeyer led HHS with 14 points while Weinbrenner added 10. As a team, Hillsboro shot just under 36 percent from the floor (16-45) while Sterling shot almost 41 percent (13-32).
?We need to find an offensive rhythm,? Knoll said. ?We?re standing too much, especially after the initial pass or two. We?ve got to correct that. We did get some shots that we missed down the stretch, but I?m confident that we?ll make those as we get into the season.?
The Black Bears (6-0) held a huge advantage at the free-throw line, going 19-for-28 compared to 4-for-5 for Hillsboro (2-3).
?The one positive is this was a really good team we played tonight,? Knoll said. ?It tells us we?re right there with the good teams in our league. We?ve just got to find a way to get on the winning side of those, instead of just being in a tight game.?
Smoky Valley?Hillsboro hung with a physically superior Viking squad for one quarter last Tuesday, but in the end lost by 15 points, 59-44, in Brown Gymnasium.
Even though the Vikings (2-1) held the edge in height and athleticism, Hillsboro (2-2) matched them stride for stride in the first quarter. The Trojans actually led, 18-17, at the first break on the strength of eight points from freshman point guard Brett Weinbrenner.
But in the second quarter, the Trojans hit a 1-for-13 shooting skid that turned the game Smoky Valley?s way. The Vikings started the period with a 7-0 run and led by five at the intermission buzzer, 26-21.
?We got good shots, we just didn?t make them,? coach Darrel Knoll said. ?We got some offensive rebounds and just didn?t convert. If we had gotten a few of those shots, it may have made a little difference.?
The third period didn?t go much better for HHS. Weinbren?ner hit a pair of free throws two minutes in, but Smoky Valley dumped in 14 points before Jesse Allen broke the scoring drought with Hillsboro?s first field goal at the 3:15 mark. The basket cut Smoky?s lead to 39-24.
The Vikings led 47-31 at the end of the quarter and pushed the lead in the fourth quarter to as much as 55-37 with just under three minutes to play.
?That was the best team we?ve played this year,? Knoll said of the Vikings. ?They have a great inside game, their guards run well, they shoot well and they came to play.
?We?ve got to give them credit?they executed and really made it tough on us to do what we needed to do.?
Weinbrenner, Hillsboro?s only formidable offensive weapon against the Vikings, finished with a season-high 22 points.
Coming?Hillsboro was scheduled to play at Marion on Tuesday to close out the pre-holiday schedule for both teams. A story and photos from that game will be available at hillsborofreepress.com.
Hillsboro will return to action Jan. 4 when the Trojans travel to Halstead.