The Trojans had their hands full against a 2-5 Nickerson team throughout the first half. Led by Joey Stockinger?s nine first-quarter points, the Panthers were nipping at Hillsboro?s heals, 17-15, at the first break.
With the Panthers clamping down hard on Hillsboro?s two primary scorers, Chris?tian Ratzlaff and Brett Wein?brenner, the Trojans got a boost with five points from Jesse Brown and four from Avery Franz to help bump the lead to 30-27 by halftime.
?I thought we played pretty hard the entire game, but the first half they just hit shots,? coach Darrel Knoll said. ?They had guys hit shots who normally don?t make shots. They played really well.?
The tide turned in the third quarter as the Trojans shut out Nickerson for the first 5:40 while building a 39-27 lead. After the Panthers finally scored on a putback, Jordan Faul drained a three with 2:05 left in the quarter for a 42-29 cushion heading into the final period.
Hillsboro?s defense frustrated the Pan?thers down the stretch as the Trojans nailed down the 15-point win.
?The second half I thought we picked up our intensity level a little bit,? Knoll said. ?I thought we were able to force more mistakes on their part and make them take tougher shots. I thought every shot they took was pretty well contested.?
Both Ratzlaff and Wein?brenner were held below their season averages with 14 and seven points, respectively. But four other Trojans stepped up to score seven points or more to help fill the void. Micah Allen pitched in 10, including a pair of three-pointers; Faul hit three threes for nine points; Franz tied his career high with eight points and Brown scored seven.
?What I thought was most impressive tonight was our ability to move the ball and get the guys to open spots where they could make their shots,? Knoll said.
With the win the Trojans improved to 9-1 overall and 2-0 in the CKL while Nicker?son dropped to 2-6 and 1-1.
Sterling?The Trojans recovered their winning form?despite some chilly three-point shooting?with a 57-44 victory over the visiting Black Bears last Tuesday to improve to 8-1.
The Trojans weren?t on fire offensively as the game began, but their strong defensive effort forced nine Black Bear turnovers in the first period and contributed to enough fast-break points for a 15-6 lead as the quarter ended.
But the second quarter suddenly turned ugly. The Trojans made only two of 13 shots and surrendered a couple baskets off silly turnovers. Fortunately, their defense created enough havoc to limit the Black Bears to 4-for-11 shooting and Hillsboro managed a 20-14 lead at halftime.
Brett Weinbren?ner was the one bright spot on offense, leading the team with 10 points.
?I still think offensively we?re pressing a little bit,? coach Darrel Knoll said. ?We?re just not shooting the ball as well as we have been. For the most part the shots were open, but I think a little better movement would have given us more offensive boards.?
The Black Bears came out of the break like their hibernation had been interrupted. A 7-2 spurt quickly cut Hillsboro?s lead to a single point at 22-21.
But when Micah Allen grabbed a rebound and dribbled coast-to-coast for a layup, the Trojans discovered some offensive spark. Christian Ratzlaff hit back-to-back three-pointers, Brown added a basket in the lane and Evan Ollen?burger stole the ball and scored?all in less than a minute.
Suddenly, Hillsboro led 34-23 with 3:59 left in the period. The lead was 41-33 at the end of the quarter.
To their credit, the Trojans took charge of the fourth quarter and cruised to the 13-point win.
Weinbrenner led all scorers with 17 points. After a slow start, Ratzlaff finished with 13 points. For the team, the three-point line might as well have been the Arctic Circle as HHS shot a frigid 3-for-15 for the game.
On a warmer note, Jesse Brown played perhaps his best game of the season. The 6-foot senior scored nine points, pulled down seven rebounds and for the most part, offset Sterling?s height and girth advantage with his athleticism on both ends of the court.
?He made it tough on those guys to get the ball in, and contested well,? Knoll said. ?I was really happy with his game.?
With the loss, Sterling, led by 15 points from Trey Bagby, dropped to 2-7 for the season.
?The one thing I will say is that we played great defense all night,? Knoll said. ?We made it tough on them on virtually every shot they took. I was really happy with the effort.?
Coming?Hillsboro comes into this week?s Trojan Classic as the No. 2 seed behind unbeaten Hesston. The Trojans will open play at 6 p.m. Tuesday against Good?land (3-5).
A win would pit the Trojans against the winner of No. 4 Wamego (4-3) and No. 5 Republic County at 5 p.m. Friday. A loss would mean playing the loser of that game at 3 p.m. Thursday. The finals will be Satur?day.
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