It wasn’t the prettiest win of the year, but Hillsboro battled through shooting frustrations against a physical Haven team to capture a big 53-48 win in a raucous environment on the road.
The two teams entered the game tied with Hesston for first place in the Central Kansas League at 3-0.
Late in the first quarter, the Trojans trailed 11-7 when Elias Werth nailed a three-pointer and Carson Herbel followed with a two-point basket off a steal to give the Trojans a 12-11 edge as the quarter ended.
Leading 17-15, the Trojans had their most productive stretch of the game in the final two minutes of the second quarter. Darien Ratzlaff contributed a two-pointer and a three-pointer while Herbel and Preston Loewen each added a basket to give Hillsboro a 26-20 lead at intermission.
Haven stepped up as the third quarter began, launching a 12-3 run that put the Wildcats on top, 32-29. But Loewen responded with a three, Joe Knoll added a two-pointer, Wes Shaw then scored back-to-back baskets and Herbel added a free throw to establish a 39-34 lead as the quarter ended.
In the fourth quarter, Hillsboro maintained a tentative lead until Aaron Yoder, Haven’s 6-foot-5 post, scored on a put-back to tie the game at 42 with 3:41 to play. Ratzlaff and Werth responded in the following minute with back-to-back baskets for a 46-43 lead.
Hillsboro held the lead until the final buzzer, but the Trojans could have made the ride a lot easier if they had made more than five free throws in 11 opportunities down the home stretch.
Loewen finished with 13 points to lead the Trojans. Ratzlaff added 12 and Herbel 10. As a team, Hillsboro shot 20-49 from the floor (41 percent) while Haven made 17-52 (33 percent).
“We didn’t shoot very well tonight,” coach Darrel Knoll said. “We had wide-open look after wide-open look, they just didn’t go down.
“I thought the best thing about tonight was that we continued to play,” he added. “I had to really work to get the right matchups on the court because of foul trouble and things like that.”
The victory improved Hillsboro’s season record to 9-1.
“It was a great win on a tough court to win on, and against a really good team,” Knoll said. “I can’t be more pleased with how they responded.”
Hoisington—Hillsboro kept the pedal to the metal from start to finish for a 72-52 league victory on the road Tuesday.
The Trojans led the Cardinals by as much as 30 points midway through the fourth quarter.
Elias Werth’s three-point basket 47 seconds into the game set the tone for what was to come. By the end of the game, the Trojans’ long-range shooters made 10 threes in 23 attempts.
But the unexpected story was the dominant inside game of sophomore Wes Shaw, who came off the bench to score 19 points for the 8-1 Trojans.
The hulky 6-2 sophomore entered the game to slow down Hoisington’s Grant Dolechek, who scored three times in the early minutes on strong drives to the basket to put the Cardinals on top, 9-8.
That turned out to be the home team’s last lead. Shaw scored five points in the final 2:12 to give Hillsboro a 13-9 lead as the first quarter ended.
Except for a pair of free throws, Shaw and company shut out Dolechek in the second quarter. Eight more points from Shaw inflated the Trojans’ lead by halftime to 33-17. Werth finished with 10 first-half points.
In the third quarter, it was Preston Loewen’s turn to get hot. The senior hit one three at the 6:34 mark, then scored eight unanswered points, including two more threes, over a span of 1:54 to give Hillsboro a 54-30. Shaw added a put-back in the final two seconds for a 56-30 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
As coach Darrel Knoll substituted freely from his bench, he received one more surprise. Caleb Potucek scored five points in the final frame, including a three, giving the freshman a career-high eight points for the game.
“I was really pleased with the game,” Knoll said. “It was good to get the lead and maintain the lead. To have so many guys contribute was really good. We can keep developing depth and instill some confidence.”
Coming—Hillsboro boys will be the No. 2 seed at the 23nd annual Trojan Classic basketball tournament this week.
The Trojans (7-1 at the time of seeding) were scheduled to open against No. 7 Clay Center (1-6) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. If the Trojans win, they will play the winner of No. 3 Republic County (4-3) and No. 6 Sunrise Academy (3-5) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Brown Gymnasium.
If Hillsboro loses to Clay Center, the Trojans will take on the Republic County-Sunrise loser at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Tabor College gymnasium.
Saturday’s final games begin at 1 p.m. for the boys, with match-ups determined by the results of the first two rounds.