Defense wins championships. But when both teams play strong defense, only one can leave with the title. Hillsboro had enough weapons on offense to get past Remington, 35-21, in the title game of the Class 3A sub-state tournament at Sterling Saturday.
The two teams battled to an 11-9 standoff through the first quarter. The Trojans forced eight Bronco turnovers in the opening period, but had trouble translating them into points as they had the night before in the rout of Sedgwick, thanks to the Broncos? effort on defense.
Both teams slipped into a scoring drought in the second period as defense played center stage. Hillsboro managed a 3-point shot from Callie Serene at the 4:06 mark, a basket in the paint by Franny Gottsch with 1:38 left, and finally a layup by Allie Faul off a steal by Candace Weinbrenner with 53 seconds left.
Six points wasn?t much, but it was six more than Remington mustered as the Trojans shut out the Broncos, allowing only two field-goal attempts while forcing 12 more turnovers. The two teams went to the locker room at halftime with Hillsboro leading 18-9.
The scoring dearth continued into the third quarter. The Trojans managed only five points: a field goal by Tena Loewen and three free throws from Dakota Kaufman. Remington managed one field goal on seven attempts?ending a scoreless run of 11:30?but Hillsboro?s 5-2 edge bumped the lead to 23-11 through three quarters.
The two teams traded baskets through the final period. Remington did get within 11 points of the Trojans, but never closer as Hillsboro made six of seven free throws in the final 3:16.
Hillsboro shot only 33 percent from the floor (12-36) for the game, but made 10 of 13 free throws. Remington could do no better than 31 percent (9-29) and, despite Hillsboro?s aggressive defense, had only five opportunities at the free-throw line, making three.
Kaufman finished with 13 points to lead both teams. Katie Regier pitched in 11 for the Broncos.
?The defense was fantastic,? Hillsboro coach Nathan Hiebert said. ?(Remington) has two really solid players in Regier and (Quin) Tillotson. Their main strength is trying to get to the basket, and I thought we did a good job (of preventing that). The second and third quarters were the key to the game.?
Hiebert also praised Remington?s defensive effort.
?They didn?t allow us a lot outside, and they really didn?t give us a lot of opportunities for baskets inside either,? Hiebert said. ?They do a great job of making you throw a pass over the top that?s a little slower, and all of a sudden they have time to rotate and be where they need to be.?
Remington (17-6) finished with 27 turnovers, 20 in the first half. Hillsboro (18-5) committed 15.
Hiebert said he wasn?t surprised his team was heading back to Hutch, even after an 0-3 start to the season.
?The very first meeting I said my expectation was that we make it back to state and get past the first round,? he said. ?I told the girls that?s the potential they had. I worried a little bit after those first three games, but we were learning a lot of stuff at the start. I like where we are now.?
HHS 61, Sedgwick 27
Smothering. There?s no better word to describe Hillsboro defense in Friday night?s semifinal blitz?krieg of Sedgwick at Sterling.
The Trojans used 12 Sedgwick turnovers in the first quarter to fuel a 22-2 lead at the break. By halftime, the turnover count was up to 18 and Hillsboro?s lead was 34-7.
Candace Weinbrenner registered seven steals in the half, and Dakota Kaufman cashed in several fast-break baskets to lead the scoring charge with 14 points. Perhaps the most impressive stat of all: Sedgwick managed only five field-goal attempts in the entire half.
?Our pressure had to be a key and our rebounding had to be a key,? coach Nathan Hiebert said. ?We were outsized in a lot of areas. I knew if we could pressure, they wouldn?t get a lot of opportunities. As for rebounding, we got a lot of second opportunities, and they didn?t get many.?
Just when the Cardinals started to compete on the offensive end to start the third quarter, their emerging confidence wilted under a barrage of six 3-point bombs as the Trojans suddenly expanded their arsenal.
Allie Faul hit two straight treys to start the quarter while Callie Serene hit three and Courtney Weber one in the final 2:35 to complete the 6-for-6 long-range performance.
With Hillsboro leading 56-22 heading into the fourth quarter, the continuous clock kicked in, and Hiebert pulled his starters with 5:44 to go.
?We have a lot of games where we play a really good first quarter, then let down a bit,? Hiebert said. ?But I didn?t feel like we did that tonight. (Sedgwick) made a couple of buckets in the second quarter, but I told the girls if you?re playing that hard, the other team is going to make a bucket here or there. But I was proud how we finished the game.?
Kaufman finished with 14 points to pace the Trojans, who made 55 percent of their shots (22-40) while Sedgwick made 45 percent (10-22). The Cardinals finished with 22 turnovers.
?We knew they struggle a bit bringing down the ball,? Hiebert said. ?When they get in the half court they?re a much better team because not many teams can match up to their size.?
HHS 50, Ellinwood 38
Sub-state first round
A loss of focus by Hillsboro transformed an apparent cakewalk into a nail-biter Tuesday, but the Trojans hung on to defeat Ellinwood at Brown Gymna?sium.
The Trojans, seeded No. 1 in the tournament, started the game with guns blazing, rolling up a 15-0 lead before Ellinwood?s Lauren Thill finally scored with 3:12 left in the first quarter. By the first break, the Trojans were on top, 19-4, and seemed in complete control.
When Tena Loewen started the second quarter with a pair of free throws to bump the lead to 17 points, it appeared the Eagles were in for another dose of Trojan trouncing. But the Eagles mounted a 10-2 rally, sinking four straight field-goal attempts and two free throws while the Trojans made only one of five shots.
Dakota Kaufman then scored twice to bump the lead back to 27-14 at the 3:52 mark, but the two teams managed only one basket between them en route to a 27-16 Trojan advantage at halftime.
Hillsboro got off to a quick 5-1 start in the third quarter, but Thill took over the game for the next two minutes with a free throw and three unanswered baskets to pull the Eagles to within nine, 32-23, with 4:19 left in the quarter. The two teams battled to a 38-28 score as the final quarter ended.
The Trojans, despite their mediocre play, seemed in control of the game?s outcome until the final period. Franny Gottsch started the fourth quarter with a basket off a steal by Tena Loewen.
But a basket by Thill, a 3-point basket by Kaycee Brown and a traditional three-point play by Thill suddenly cut the lead to 40-36 with 4:32 left to play as Hillsboro turned the ball over three times and missed its only field-goal attempt in four possessions.
Kaufman, who hadn?t scored since the first minute of the third quarter, suddenly found her stride and scored eight points in the final 4:28. Allie Faul chipped in a huge steal and layup as the Trojans finished with the double-digit win.
Kaufman finished with 22 points for HHS. Thill finished an impressive evening with 20 points as Ellinwood ended its season at 4-16. Two weeks earlier, Hillsboro had defeated the Eagles, 55-25.
?We talked a lot about taking the baseline penetration away, and we just didn?t do that,? Hillsboro coach Nathan Hiebert said after the game. ?Bad things happened when they penetrated the baseline?they got fouled, they got shots. We talked about that stuff, but we didn?t have girls stepping up to do it.?