Hillsboro falls short at Pratt, 43-39

Hillsboro’s Mesa Merrell drives for the basket against Pratt defender Makenzie Baird during the first half. The Trojan senior scored 15 points against the Green­backs, but Pratt prevailed, 43-39.Hillsboro battled back from an early double-digit deficit, but their comeback fell four points short in a 43-39 loss at Pratt on Friday.

It appeared Hills­boro’s fate would be determined early as the Trojans found themselves in a 17-6 hole by the end of the first quarter ended.

But the Trojans did not fold. Fueled by 10 points from Mesa Merrell in the second quarter, Hillsboro pulled into a 25-25 tie at halftime. Rebecca Kaufman scored two consecutive baskets in the final 21 seconds to tie the game.

“I was pleased with how we fought back and some of things we started to do,” coach Nathan Hiebert said of the run. “We worked a lot better as a team, we ran pretty well during that stretch and we got three backdoor cuts tonight that we haven’t had all season.”

Hillsboro’s comeback began to wane during a third quarter in which the Trojans turned the ball over 12 times against Pratt’s defensive pressure. Hillsboro managed only seven shots, but made three. Defense kept the Trojans close, limiting the home team to two baskets and two free throws.

With Pratt leading 37-32 heading into the fourth quarter, the Trojans’ struggles on offense intensified. They missed nine of their first 10 shots and turned the ball over five more times.

Down 41-35 with just over a minute to play, Hillsboro made a final charge. Sienna Kaufman scored in the paint, then Abby Sechrist forced a Pratt turnover and turned it into two points to pull within 41-39.

But another Trojan turn­over and two missed shots down the stretch, combined with two made free throws by Pratt’s Danielle Staats with 6.5 seconds to play, sealed the Trojans’ fate.

Merrell took scoring honors for Hillsboro with 15 points. Unofficially, the Trojans shot 40 percent from the floor (16-40) but turned the ball over 32 times. Pratt shot 50 percent (14-28) from the field and committed 23 turnovers.

“Against teams that really pressure, we struggle to execute all the way through,” Hiebert said. “I give Pratt credit for that. But when we executed, we did some good things.”

With the loss, Hillsboro slipped to 0-4 in the league and 5-10 overall.

Council Grove—The Trojans, facing the No. 3 ranked team in Class 3A on the road, were smothered by the undefeated Braves, 76-20, upon their return action Jan. 30.

Facing an athletic, veteran, sharp-shooting bunch of Braves, the Trojans were not likely to pull off an upset. Council Grove scored the first two baskets and never looked back.

Paige Proffitt scored Hillsboro’s first points at the 6:53 mark, but the Trojans didn’t score a second basket until nearly two minutes into the second quarter. Savannah Unruh converted a rare fast-break basket to make the score 27-9. By halftime, Council Grove led, 42-13.

The Braves opened the third quarter with a 13-0 run to inflate lead to 55-13 before Sienna Kaufman scored Hills­boro’s first basket at the 4:59 mark. By the end of the quarter, the home team led 64-17.

Playing subs vs. subs with a running clock in the final quarter didn’t help Hillsboro, as the home-team reserves outscored the Tro­jans, 13-3, for the final 56-point spread.

Council Grove put on a shooting clinic, hitting 63 percent of its shots (32-51) for the game.

Struggling against the Braves’ swarming defense, Hillsboro was limited to 14 percent shooting (5-36) from the floor. Mesa Merrell led the team with six points.

“We talked about wanting to have a little patience, because if we didn’t it would be an up-and-down game and that’s what Council Grove wanted,” coach Nathan Hiebert said. “Unfortunately we didn’t have much patience and we played right into their hands.”

Faith Brintle scored 20 points for Council Grove, making seven of 10 shots from the field, including four of five three-point attempts.

The Braves improved to 14-0 for the season while the Trojans slipped to 5-9.

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