With senior point guard Brett Weinbrenner watching from the sidelines following an ankle injury Tuesday against Halstead, Hillsboro needed some of his teammates to step up in their rematch Friday against Lyons, a dangerous team Hillsboro had defeated by 15 points in their season opener Dec. 10.
And step up they did, particularly on defense. Limit?ing the Lions to 32 percent shooting, the Trojans, ranked No. 6 in Class 2A, rolled to a 55-36 victory to improve to 5-0.
?I thought defensively we played really tough all night,? coach Darrel Knoll said. ?Position-wise, we contested shots. We rebounded well and got some good run-outs on offense out of that. ?
Early in the game, the Trojans seem to be missing Weinbrenner?s scoring (17.3 ppg) when they trailed the home team at the end of the first quarter, 8-7.
But with six players contributing points in the second period, the Trojans outscored the home team 16-8 to take a 23-16 halftime lead.
Lyons scored the first three points of the second half, but with the Trojans stiffening on the defensive end, they pushed the lead to 39-26 by the end of the third quarter. Christan Ratzlaff contributed nine of Hills?boro?s 16 points during the period.
?We were a little out of rhythm on offense the first part of the game, but I thought we were a little better as we went along,? Knoll said.
With the Trojans leading 42-33 midway into the fourth quarter, Micah Allen scored a rare 4-point play with 4:32 left in the game. The junior was fouled as he launched a successful three-point shot from the wing, then drained the bonus free throw.
?Micah seems to have a knack for hitting the big shot when we need it,? Knoll said.
That turn of events seemed to drain the life out of Lyons. Allen came back to hit another three just over a minute later to drive the final nail into the coffin as Hillsboro cruised to a 19-point win.
Ratzlaff led all scorers with 18 points, but the Trojans also got double-digit help from Allen and Evan Ollenburger with 11 points each. Avery Franz came off the bench to add a career-high eight points in 12 minutes of playing time.
?Evan was tremendous on both sides of the ball tonight,? Knoll said. ?He was able to take it to the basket and he made his free throws. Avery finished on some dump-downs and Christian did a great job of running the point.?
Hillsboro?s 5-0 start marks the first time since 2004 that the Trojans have entered the holiday break as an undefeated team.
?That is as good as we could have hoped for,? Knoll said. ?I?m really proud of the way the guys are playing. The good thing is we still have a lot of improving to do. We just have to continue to work to where we want to be.?
Halstead?Coming off three strong shooting performances at the Mound?ridge tournament last week, the Trojans found themselves mired in a defensive battle that ended with a hard-fought 46-34 victory.
With Christian Ratzlaff scoring the team?s last six points, Hillsboro staked a 15-11 lead by the end of the first quarter.
The Trojans missed their first five shots and committed two turnovers before Ratzlaff stepped up again, this time hitting a three-pointer at the 3:21 mark. He followed with a pair of free throws less than a minute later to give the Trojans a 20-15 lead.
Ratzlaff scored again with 49 seconds left in the half, then fed Avery Franz an assist for one more basket in the final two seconds. Hills?boro led 24-17 at intermission.
With Hillsboro leading 35-26 after three quarters, both teams struggled for points as the final quarter began. Hillsboro missed its first six shots and Halstead seven before Halstead?s Dalton Haight finally got a shot to drop at the 3:39 mark.
Micah Allen then scored on a baseline drive with 2:44 to play and Jordan Faul followed with a basket 37 seconds later for a 40-28 Trojan lead.
Hillsboro had a chance to expand the margin in the final 1:30, but missed three consecutive front-end free-throws in a one-and-one situation. Jesse Brown finally broke the streak by making both free throws with 23.1 seconds left. Faul capped the scoring with a layup off a steal with 5 seconds left.
Ratzlaff led all scorers with 15 points. He added 10 rebounds for a double-double as Hillsboro improved to 4-0.
Halstead?s standout scorer Anthony Santiago, who came in averaging around 30 points per game, managed only 10 against the defense of Brett Weinbren?ner with help from Evan Ollenburger.
?He took away everything Santiago likes to do?what a tremendous effort tonight,? Knoll said of Weinbrenner, his four-year senior starter.
The Trojans shot a respectable 44 percent from the field (16-40), but only four of 17 three-point shots.
?Both teams played really hard defense, and both teams had a hard time getting the ball down court on transition,? Knoll said. ?As a result, neither team shot the ball particularly well.?
?I was proud of the guys for continuing to play hard on defense. We got some key rebounds. Avery came up really big tonight off the bench and Evan had a really good game inside.
?We made enough plays to win.?
Coming?Hillsboro (5-0) will return to action Jan. 3 when the Trojans host Marion (3-2) at Brown Gym?na?sium. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.