Hillsboro defeats Dragons, Vikings

Sophomore Elias Werth hits the first of his five three-point baskets during the first quarter of Hillsboro?s 53-45 win over Halstead Friday. He led Trojan scorers with 15 points.The Hillsboro boys lived off the fat of a phenomenal first half to post a 53-45 victory over Halstead Friday in Brown Gymna?sium.

Coupled with a 61-56 home-court win against Smoky Valley on Tuesday, the Trojans are 7-2 for the season and 3-1 in league play.

Halstead?Halstead built a 10-3 lead in the first 4:27 of the game before the Trojans suddenly found their sweet spot on both ends of the court.

In the final 4:04, Hillsboro made eight of 10 shots from the floor?including two threes by Elias Werth and one by Joe Knoll?for a 20-0 run and a 23-10 lead when the quarter ended. Defen?sively, Hillsboro forced six turnovers and held Hal?stead to 0-for-3 shooting.

Darian Ratzlaff started the second quarter by hitting the Trojans? fifth three; the quarter ended with back-to-back threes by Werth for a 36-17 lead at inter?mission.

?Our defensive intensity was tremendous,? coach Darrel Knoll said. ?We took them out of everything they wanted, we did a great job on the boards, we stopped penetration. We really played great.?

The flow of the game changed dramatically in the third period. Hills?boro missed four consecutive three-point shots in the first two minutes. That jump-started Halstead for a 15-2 run that shriveled Hills?boro?s lead to 38-32 by the end of the quarter.

?It wasn?t that our possessions were that bad, but we could have been a little more patient and have a little more movement,? Knoll said. ?We just didn?t make anything, and all of a sudden (Halstead) got going.?

When Halstead scored the first four points of the final quarter, the Dragons were within two. But a basket by Austin Cross in the paint off a nice assist from Preston Loewen seemed to flip the switch for Hillsboro.

Ratzlaff followed with a two-point floater, Loewen sank a pair of free throws and Werth banked in a three to boost Hillsboro?s lead to nine points, 47-38, with 3:24 to play. The two teams more or less traded points the rest of the way.

Werth led the Trojans with 15 points, including five threes in seven attempts. Ratzlaff and Loewen each added 12 points. Cross pulled down 14 of Hillsboro?s 21 rebounds and chipped in seven points.

Smoky Valley?Hillsboro survived a shaky finish to hold off the visiting Vikings, 61-56. The Trojans led 15-10 after one quarter and 31-24 at halftime.

After Preston Loewen opened the second half with a three-pointer and Austin Cross and Carson Herbel each added a two-point basket, Hillsboro?s lead reached a new high of 38-26 with 4:54 left the third quarter.

The Trojans managed only one more field goal?a three by Ratzlaff with 27 seconds left?to lead 43-35 as the quarter ended.

In the final quarter, Loe?wen hit another three, Ratz?laff and Braden Vogt contributed baskets in the paint as the Trojans? lead grew to 50-35 with 6:28 to go.

When Joe Knoll scored on a drive to the basket with 2:19 left, Hills?boro enjoyed its largest lead at 56-41.

Smoky?s late surge began with a bucket by Trey Schneider with 1:16 to play. When Nick Reinert hit a deep three with 12.5 seconds left, the lead suddenly had shriveled to 59-54.

Single free throws by Elias Werth and Loewen offset one final Smoky basket in the final 10 seconds to nail down the 61-56 victory.

?We just didn?t finish like we should have,? coach Dar?rel Knoll said about an otherwise solid performance. ?We took a couple of ill-advised shots, but we?ve got to rebound. That was the biggest thing.?

Ratzlaff finished with 18 points, Cross added 14 and Loewen 10 to fuel the Tro?jans, who shot 53 percent (23-44) from the floor as a team.

Coming?Hills?boro, seeded No. 4 in this week?s Trojan Classic, played No. 5 Sunrise (9-4) on Tuesday. Results are posted on hillsborofreepress.com.

If the Trojans won, they would play the winner of No. 1 Holcomb (7-0) and No. 8 Riley County (2-5) at 7:30 p.m. Fri?day in Brown Gymna?sium.

If Hillsboro lost to Sun?rise, the Trojans would play the loser of Hol?comb-Riley County at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Tabor College gymnasium.

The tournament concludes with a full slate of games on Saturday. Check the Free Press website for details.

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