This time, there was no doubt which team wanted to end their season with a victory.
Sophomore Tena Loewen poured in 22 points to fuel a focused Hillsboro girls? team to a 53-27 win over Thomas More Prep. The victory earned the Trojans the third-place trophy at the Class 3A state tournament Saturday in Hutchinson.
After a sometimes passive performance in their semifinals loss to Wichita Collegiate the night before, the Trojans came after the Monarchs with a vengeance.
?I?m very proud of the way the girls played today,? coach Nathan Hiebert said. ?They did a fantastic job. We did some good things right off the bat.?
Loewen scored a pair of free throws on a foul off the opening tip. Addie Lackey followed with a lay-in on an assist from Krista Reimer and then Reimer herself scored in the paint to give HHS a 6-0 lead only 2:21 into the contest.
The Trojans pushed their early lead to 12-3 on a Loewen basket with 2:25 left in the period. TMP scored five points in the final 1:36 to close the period at 12-8.
Throttling a TMP squad with harassing defense, the Trojans limited the Monarchs to 1-for-13 shooting in the second quarter and forced three turnovers as they built a 24-12 lead by intermission.
Loewen contributed 14 points in the opening half and Lackey added six.
To their credit, the Trojans didn?t take their foot off the gas in the second half. Hillsboro forced turnovers on TMP?s first five possessions of the third quarter while adding four more points to the lead.
?We talked about how the start of the third quarter was going to be huge for us to keep our momentum,? Hiebert said about his halftime input. ?If they came out and hit a couple shots, they would have confidence that they?re right back in the game.
?So we talked a lot about that we needed to keep doing the things we were doing?keep attacking the basket, and they are either going to foul us or we?re going to get layups.
?The girls listened.?
The Trojans enjoyed a 34-19 lead by the end of the third quarter, but their last quarter was their best one. A 19-8 edge in the final frame fueled the 26-point victory and avenged an overtime loss to the Monarchs back in January at the Trojan Classic.
Beyond her scoring and double-digit rebounding (10), Loewen contributed her third outstanding defensive game of the tournament, this time against Rachel Jacobs who managed only nine points for TMP.
?We asked her to take (Carly) Spicer against Osage City, who averages close to 20; we asked her to guard Ashia Woods, who to my mind is one of the best players in the state; then we asked her to guard Rachel Jacobs,? Hiebert said.
?(Loewen) gets a double-double today and has to guard the best player on the other team and keeps her in single digits. I?m just very proud of the job that she did, and the team as a whole.?
In addition to claiming the first state plaque since the 2007 championship year, Hillsboro?s young squad finished with a 21-5 record?the most wins since 2007 (23-3) and, before that, the most since the 1996 state championship team (24-2).
Hiebert said he will miss his four seniors?Allie Faul, Becky Faber, Elise Heyen and Emma Heyen?but the future of the program looks bright.
?We talked a lot the last three seasons about being a family and that everyone is a part of this,? Hiebert said. ?Courtney Weber and Addie Lackey have been sick the past two days. But it shows we have other girls who can step up.
?Everyone is a part of this, and everyone is important to the success of this team,? he added. ?A lot of girls are getting opportunities, which means we lose four seniors but we also bring back a lot of girls who have some great experience.
?Hillsboro has a great tradition, but I think this is one thing that can help us keep it rolling.?
Wichita Collegiate 39, HHS 29
Hillsboro got off to a solid start against a talented Wichita Collegiate team, but it was the Spartans who took charge over the long haul en route to a 10-point win over the Trojans in the state semifinals Friday.
With sophomore Tena Loewen locking down on one of the top players in the state in Collegiate?s Ashia Woods, the Trojans had an opportunity for what most onlookers would have considered at least a mild upset of their former league rivals.
After Collegiate struck first, Hillsboro?s Loewen and Addie Lackey traded assists for easy baskets on consecutive possessions as Hillsboro took its first lead at 4-2.
After a 4-4 score at the end of the first quarter, Hillsboro battled for the lead through the first 2:26 of the second period and claimed it for the last time at 13-11 when Callie Serene drained a three-point shot from the wing at the 5:34 mark.
Woods and Keli Dunn responded with back-to-back threes for Collegiate, while the Trojans managed only one more basket before halftime, enabling the Spartans to build a 22-15 at intermission.
?The last four minutes of first half I was disappointed because we just were passive,? coach Nathan Hiebert said. ?Collegiate outplayed us.
?And it?s not just Ashia Woods. In the first half, I thought all those girl played harder than our girls. They were more disciplined in attacking and got the shots they wanted. We settled for passing the ball around and maybe taking a shot.?
When Collegiate started the third quarter with an 8-0 run to push the lead to 30-15, the Trojans were against the ropes.
Allie Faul scored on an inbounds pass to break the streak with 4:07 left in the quarter, but the Spartans held their own and ended the quarter with a 34-20 lead.
Hillsboro conjured a slow surge to start the final period, holding the Spartans scoreless through the first 5:31 of the quarter, while baskets by Faul and Loewen chipped the lead to 34-24.
But Collegiate got a three from Woods and a two from Sydney Lower to push the margin back to 15 with 3:44 left and short-circuit any realistic hope of a Trojan comeback win.
?I was proud with how we fought at the end,? Hiebert said. ?We had enough in the tank to get some turnovers. It?s just that we chose to wait to the end to do it. You can?t wait until you?re 10 or 14 down.?
Woods finished with a game-high 19 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and five blocked shots.
?Tena did a great job (defending Woods),? Hiebert said. ?Ashia got a lot of her points in the open court. Tena can?t do much there when she gets steals and easy buckets.?
Loewen tied Serene and Faul for high scorer for HHS with eight points, while pulling down nine rebounds and grabbing four steals?all team highs.
The Trojans more or less matched the Spartans both in rebounds (26 to 24) and turnovers (24 to 22), but the game boiled down to better shooting by Woods and her Collegiate teammates, 46 percent (15-33) to 32 percent (13-41) for Hillsboro.
Collegiate (20-6) went on to win the Class 3A title the following night with a 43-41 win over previously undefeated Jefferson County North.
HHS 40, Osage City 32
An 8-3 surge over the last half of the third quarter proved to be pivotal as Hillsboro opened the Class 3A state tournament Wednesday with an eight-point win over Osage City.
The win was a significant accomplishment for the young Trojans, who had been bounced from the tournament in the first round the previous two years under coach Nathan Hiebert.
?I don?t know what this is like,? Hiebert said, smiling. ?I?m used to going to Applebee?s (on the way home) to celebrate a good season. I?m glad we get to play some more games.?
Key to the victory was Hillsboro?s tenacious defense against a team that had a significant height advantage. The Indians? 6-foot-1 Carly Spicer and 5-foot-11 Taylor Kimball, combined for 21 points for the game.
?Spicer is a fantastic player, but Tena (Loewen) did a fantastic job fronting and jumping to the ball,? Hiebert said. ?Spicer worked hard, but Tena worked hard on getting into the right positions, the right spots. We got plenty of steals because they were forcing things inside.?
At the same time, the Trojan guards continually harassed their Indian counterparts from start to finish, making it difficult for them to set up their offense and contributing to the team?s 16 turnovers.
?We talked before the game that our guards would have to be key, not letting them just easily get into their offense,? Hiebert said. ?If you let them get easily into their offense it?s a lot easier to get the ball into (Spicer and Kimball), That?s really where they want to go.
?Osage City had to work every single time down the court,? he added. ?That?s what we wanted to have happen.?
The Trojans got off to a slow start on the offensive end. Spicer scored Osage City?s first eight points through the first six minutes while the Trojans missed six of their first eight shots.
The Indians led as much as 11-6 before Courtney Weber hit a 12-foot jumper with five seconds left in the quarter to narrow the gap to three at the break.
Hillsboro bumped up its defense one more notch in the second period, allowing the Indians only one field goal for the entire quarter.
Meanwhile, the Trojans nailed three consecutive three three-point shots?two by Allie Faul and a third by Callie Serene?in the first 2:07.
Addie Lackey followed with a drive and basket at the 5:03 mark to give Hillsboro a 19-13 lead. Faul pushed the lead to 20-13 with 1:36 left in the half before Kimball sank four straight free throws to narrow the margin to 20-17 at intermission.
Hillsboro started slowly in the third period. After Faul made one of two free throws, Diedra Jones and Spicer each scored two points as Osage City pulled into a 21-21 tie with 5:20 left in the quarter.
Loewen then ignited the pivotal 10-5 surge with a pair of baskets that carried HHS to a 31-26 lead at the final break. Weber, Lackey and Faul each contributed two points to what proved to be the turning point of the contest.
With the score 31-28, Faul left the game with a leg contusion when she ran hard into a set screen at the 5:58 mark. But the Trojans responded well to the absence of their senior floor leader. Her backup, Stephanie Sanders, hit a two-point basket at the 4:07 mark than drained a huge three with 2:28 to play to push Hillsboro?s margin to 37-30.
?They did a nice job,? Hiebert said of his team?s response. ?We played a lot of girls during the season, so the girls have had some experience. We have a lot of girls that we trust to have the ball in their hands.?
The Indians managed only two free throws the rest of the way as Hillsboro cashed in some Indian fouls with 3-for-5 shooting from the free-throw line in the final 49 seconds.
Even with her early departure, Faul led HHS with 10 points while Loewen added nine. As a team, the Trojans made 13 of 31 shots (42 percent) from the floor while limiting the Indians to 38 percent shooting (11-29). Despite their height advantage, the Indians enjoyed only a modest edge in rebounds, 23-20.
Osage City ended its season at 21-3.