Perhaps it was simply a letdown after Tuesday’s emotional win that gave coach Darrel Knoll his 500th career victory, but the team that took the floor Friday against Haven didn’t seem to be the same one.
Three-for-11 shooting from the field, combined with six turnovers, helped the Wildcats establish a 13-6 lead after one quarter. But the slow start didn’t keep the Trojans from achieving a 63-53 victory for No. 501.
“That first quarter was rough,” coach Darrel Knoll said. “We couldn’t make a shot mainly because we had absolutely zero energy. However, we were able to play good enough defense to keep us in the game.”
The Trojans trailed 19-12 in the second quarter with 4:03 left, but regained their composure enough to launch an 8-2 run in the final 2:42 to pull within 21-20 by the halftime buzzer.
When Haven began the third quarter with back-to-back 3-point baskets, the Trojans were down, 27-20. Darian Ratzlaff responded with a 3-pointer and Brodie Rathbone added a 2-pointer 30 seconds later for a 27-25 deficit.
Haven refused to fold. When Thane Unruh scored in the paint with four seconds left in the quarter, the Wildcats enjoyed a 43-37 lead.
“I kept telling them with every timeout, it’s going to change, just keep playing, don’t get frustrated,” Knoll said.
Hillsboro finally turned the tide in the final quarter. Baskets by Werth, Ratzlaff and Wes Shaw tied the score at 43 with 5:43 left to play, igniting a thunderous ovation by the Hillsboro fans.
After Haven’s Jamar Miller made one of two free throws at the 5:30 mark, Hillsboro’s Caleb Potucek hit a huge 3-pointer 19 seconds later to give the Trojans a 46-44 lead.
Caleb Rempel added two free throws and Werth one free throw before Potucek hit another huge 3-pointer from the wing for a 52-44 Trojan lead with 3:11 to play.
Once again Haven rallied, this time to within 55-51 with 51.8 seconds remaining. But Hillsboro drained seven of eight free throws in the final 49.5 seconds to carry the team to a 63-53 victory.
Team statistics were pretty similar for both teams except for rebounding, where Haven held a 40-28 advantage. On the flip side, Hillsboro had the edge by forcing 23 turnovers while committing only 12, and they registered 13 steals to Haven’s seven.
Werth led Hillsboro’s with 14 points but on 4-for-11 shooting. Wes Shaw added 11 points and Potucek and Ratzlaff 10 each.
The win improves Hillsboro’s record to 9-1 for the season and 4-0 in league play while Haven slipped to 2-1 and 5-3.
Hoisington—Hillsboro fans could sense the urgency building in the faces of the Trojans as the team prepared to secure a major milestone for their head coach. Once the game began, there was little question of the outcome.
Hillsboro roared to a 26-15 lead as the first quarter ended. Senior Elias Werth contributed 11 of his game-high 31 points he would score before the night was over.
Werth set the tone, forcing a turnover on Hoisington’s first possession, then racing down the court for a layup plus a bonus free throw on a foul.
“Elias has been playing great all year,” coach Darrel Knoll said. “He comes to play every game. Aside from a couple of turnovers, I thought his game was really good, both offensively and defensively. Just a great job playing with the team.”
Despite the opening blitzkrieg, Hoisington didn’t fold. The Cardinals toughened defensively, limiting Hillsboro to only a one-point increase in the lead with a 38-26 score at halftime.
The Trojans removed any doubt about the outcome with a 22-14 third-quarter burst that vaulted them to a 60-40 lead heading into the final period. Werth scored 14 of the Trojan points.
In the final quarter, Hillsboro led by as many as 24 points at 75-51 with 1:35 left to play. Both coaches emptied their respective benches.
The night turned almost magical near the end of the game. Joe Knoll, son of the coach, made his first appearance on the court this season after rehabbing a football injury. He also nailed his first shot of the season—a 3-point basket from the wing.
“I think they really wanted to win last night,” coach Knoll said. “I think it meant a lot to them, being home after being on the road for so many games.
“They knew some of the former players were around, and different things like. I think they were just excited to play. I was really pleased with their effort.”
Immediately after the game, Knoll’s accomplishment was celebrated with the presentation of a plaque and numerous words of congratulations from his players, former players, family members as well as community friends and supporters.
Werth deserved an MVP award for his role in the victory. The senior’s career-high 31 points came on 13-for-15 shooting from the floor. He missed one only 2-point shot and one 3-point shot the entire game. He also led the team with six steals.
Also scoring in double-digits were Caleb Potucek with 14 points, Wes Shaw 13 and Darian Ratzlaff 10. As a team, the Trojans hit nearly 60 percent of their shots (31-52) during the game, they out-rebounded the Cardinals, 33-26, and registered 12 steals.
With the win, the Trojans stand at 8-1 for the season and have a 3-0 record in the Central Kansas League. The Cardinals slipped to 2-6 and 0-2.
Coming—Hillsboro will take a 9-1 record into this week’s Trojan Classic. Because of scheduling issues, the boys’ tournament will include both a bracket element and a round-robin element.
Hillsboro was to play Sunrise Christian (7-4) on Monday night, but snow and frigid temperatures have forced a postponement.
Monday’s game has been moved to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Tuesday’s games have been moved to Thursday with the same times and locations, and Friday and Saturday schedules should remain as first released.
Go to hillsborofreepress.com for Trojan same-day results.