HHS girls pull away in the second half to secure their fifth straight title.

Addie Lackey puts up a shot in the paint over the defense of Moundridge?s Brooke Halloway during the sub-state championship game on Saturday. She missed this attempt, but grabbed the rebound and scored on the way to 22 points in the 54-30 victory.What matters most is that a team is playing its best when it matters most.

The Hillsboro girls did exactly that, claiming the sub-state championship Saturday with a convincing 53-36 win over Moundridge to secure a fifth-straight state berth.

Coming in with five losses, the Trojans were assigned the fifth seed in arguably the toughest sub-state in Class 2A. But Hills?boro proved records don?t matter much once post-season play begins, knocking off three higher seeds by an average margin of 15 points.

In all three tournament games, the Trojans used a strong second half to propel them to victory.

Against Moundridge, the Trojans held a tenuous 24-21 lead at intermission, but Addie Lackey lit the fuse for Hillsboro with a three-point basket 52 seconds into the third quarter.

The Trojans exploded for a 15-6 surge and led 39-27 by the time the quarter ended. Lackey and Danae Bina accounted for all of the scoring with eight and seven points, respectively.

?I thought our girls came focused and ready to go,? coach Nathan Hiebert said.

?One of the things you can?t do against Moundridge is reach,? he added. ?We did that too much (in the first half) and got ourselves out of position, giving them the easy looks they kind of wait for. In the second half we did a better job pressuring them.

?It seems like our third quarters run a lot better for us. That was the case again tonight.?

The story was much the same in the fourth period as the Trojans? momentum carried them to a 16-9 finish and the 17-point victory.

Hillsboro?s aggressive defense was a constant factor from start to finish. Moundridge?s top scorer, McKenzie Suderman, led her team with 12 points while the Trojans prompted 15 turnovers and limited the Wildcats to 37 percent shooting from the floor.

?We always want our defense to be intense, and before we go out we make sure it?s our defense that starts us off in the games,? Lackey said. ?It gets us really going on offense, too.?

Lackey led all scorers with 22 points and Bina finished with 12. Alex Ratzlaff added 10 points and led the team with 11 rebounds and four assists.

Maddie Duerksen hit two big three-pointers for six points, and Tara Proffitt came off the bench and nailed one midway through the second quarter that put Hillsboro ahead 20-15.

As a team, Hillsboro shot 43 percent from the floor, and actually shot better behind the arc (8-17, 47 percent) than in front of it (8-20, 40 percent).

At the final buzzer, the Trojans were smiling but the celebration was relatively subdued.

?It?s not getting old,? Bina said about winning a sub-state title. ?I feel like we?re keeping the excitement down because we?re ready to do more. We?re not done. We?re ready to take state.?

The Trojans placed third in Class 3A the past three years.

Hillsboro 68, Sterling 59

Semifinals, Thursday at Berean

Playing with grit and fierce determination, the Hillsboro girls prevailed in its rubber match with league rival Sterling, the top seed in the tournament and ranked No. 3 in the state.

The two teams split their earlier two meetings, with both teams winning on their opponent?s home floor. Playing now on a loud but neutral court, the two teams locked up in a physical battle that produced 38 fouls.

At the start, the Black Bears found success inside while the Trojans established control from long range. Five three-point baskets?two each by Addie Lackey and Maddie Duerk?sen and one by Danae Bina?fueled the Tro?jans to a 21-14 lead after one quarter.

Sterling pulled to within 24-20 at the 5:46 mark of the second quarter, but after Alex Ratzlaff hit one of two free throws, Lackey scored eight unanswered points to inflate the lead to 33-20. The half ended with Hillsboro on top 37-25.

?The first half we ran our sets really well,? coach Nathan Hiebert said. ?The girls were in the spots they needed to be and they got their feet set and hit the shots in rhythm, on time. I was really proud of that.?

The Black Bears made a run at Hillsboro as the third quarter began by out?scoring the Trojans 9-2 through the first three minutes. But Lackey stepped up again, this time with a pair of baskets to break Sterling?s momentum.

With the Black Bears teetering on the edge of hope, Courtney Troyer scored in the paint and Lackey sank all three free-throws after she was fouled on a shot behind the arc. The 50-37 lead held firm until the end of the quarter.

Sterling scored five points in the first 55 seconds of the fourth quarter, but didn?t score again until its standout guard, Kylah Comley, managed a basket with 4:47 left. At that point, the Trojans were leading 58-43 and it was mostly a matter of running out the clock.

Tension returned briefly when Lackey fouled out with 2:34 to play, even though Hills?boro still led by 15. The nine-point final margin was due mostly to some battle-weary free-throw shooting over the final 1:47 when Hillsboro made only four of 12 attempts.

Lackey finished with a game-high 28 points. Ratzlaff tossed in 18, Bina 10 and Duerksen chipped in a season-high seven.

?Our top three are fantastic?Alex had a great game, Addie did a fantastic job and Danae is tough as nails,? Hiebert said. ?We?ve got to have other girls step up, and Maddie did a great job tonight. She went after balls there at the end, got shoved around a little bit. I?m really proud of her. It was a real team win.?

As a team, the Trojans shot 53 percent from the floor (19-39) but cashed in only 22 of 37 free throws.

Sterling?s two post players, Chelsey Riffel and Keena Schweizer, combined for 23 points. Comley finished with 16, but six points came from two three-point baskets in the final 32 seconds.

?We did a great job of playing team defense, making sure she?s giving it up,? Hiebert said. ?They?ve got a really, really good team. I?m really proud of our girls.?

Sterling?s outstanding season ended at 19-3.

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