Hillsboro girls fifth in Classic

<p>Senior Mesa Merrell shoots for three of her career-best 16 points against Benning­ton in the consolation semifinals played at Tabor College on Friday. Her run of eight consecutive points midway through the second quarter helped spark the team to two convincing wins during the Trojan Classic. </p><p>Don Ratzlaff / Free Press</p>Hillsboro began the Trojan Classic with a lemon, but the girls turned the week into lemonade with a pair of breakout wins over Ben­ning­­ton and Sunrise Christian Academy to secure a fifth-place finish.

The 2-1 tournament improved Hillsboro’s season record to 5-8.

“When you lose your first game, you’ve got to get excited about trying to get two wins,” coach Nathan Hiebert said. “Not many teams come out of the tournament with two wins. I like the way we finished. It leaves a pretty good taste in your mouth.”

HHS 44, Sunrise 29

Hillsboro led from start to finish against Sunrise Academy for its second consecutive win and a fifth-place finish.

The Trojans picked up where they left off the night before against Bennington by playing tough defense and, more important, putting points on the board.

Mesa Merrell scored 18 seconds into the game and Sienna Kaufman added a basket two minutes later for a 4-0 lead. Abby Sechrist scored one basket and Trinity Malm added back-to-back scores at mid-quarter for a 10-3 lead. Sunrise managed a basket in the final second for a 10-5 score at the end of the quarter.

The Trojans opened the second quarter with a 6-0 surge over the first four minutes. Sienna Kaufman and Savannah Unruh each nailed a three-point basket down the stretch to give Hillsboro a 22-11 lead at intermission.

Hillsboro enjoyed its big­gest lead of the night at 33-17 when Merrell scored on a drive to the basket. Sunrise responded with a traditional three-point play for a 33-20 score after three quarters.

In the fourth quarter, the Buffaloes got as close as 10 points with just under six minutes left to play. But Hillsboro made six of 10 free-throws over the final 2:51 to secure the victory.

The Trojans, now 5-8 for the season, were led by Rebecca Kaufman, who scored 11 points on the heels of a 12-point contribution the night before. Sienna Kaufman added nine points and Merrell seven.

The Trojans shot 35 percent (16-46) from the floor compared to 18 percent (8-44) for Sunrise. The Buffaloes held a thin edge at the free-throw line, making 13 of 17, while the Trojans made nine of 15.

“Against Bennington we started out kind of sluggish, then we found our stride,” coach Nathan Hiebert said. “It’s always good early on that we executed our plan. We got some easy looks and we won every quarter.”

HHS 36, Bennington 15

Through the first quarter, it appeared neither Hillsboro nor Benning­ton would manufacture enough points to earn a victory.

The Bulldogs scored their first and only field goal of the quarter at the 3:13 mark, shortly after Mesa Merrell hit Hillsboro’s only field goal —a three-pointer—with 2:11 left. Bennington shot 1-for-12 from the floor; Hillsboro made one of nine attempts.

The second quarter was following the same trail when Hillsboro coach Nathan Hiebert called a timeout at the 5:44 mark.

The Trojans came out of the break a different team. Merrell hit three consecutive shots—two of them threes—over a one-minute explosion. Abby Sechrist and Rebecca Kauf­man each added baskets fueling Hillsboro to a 16-8 lead at halftime.

The game’s outcome was never in doubt as the Tro­jans outscored Bennington 16-4 in the third quarter and 4-3 in the fourth quarter for the final 21-point victory.

Merrell finished with a career-best 16 points, one point more than Benning­ton’s entire team. Rebecca Kaufman added 11 and Abby Sechrist eight.

As a team, the Tigers shot 4-for-37 from the floor (11 percent) while the Trojans made six of 23 attempts (29 percent).

“This a game that they love, it’s a game I love,” Hiebert said of his team. “The girls want to win, they’re trying, but when its not happening they got tighter and tighter. Tonight we said let’s just go have fun and do our best. I was extremely proud of our girls. We had fun tonight.”

Hesston 55, HHS 21

The Trojans, who came into the game with 3-7 record and a four-game losing streak, would have needed Divine intervention to defeat a talented Swather squad ranked 10th in Class 3A.

It was not to be. Hess­ton jumped to an 8-0 lead in the first 2:30 and rolled to a 16-2 lead by the end of the first quarter.

Hillsboro started the second quarter with turnovers on their first three possessions while Hesston responded with back-to-back threes, plus a two-point basket, to inflate the lead to 24-2 at the 5:48 mark.

Trinity Malm broke Hillsboro’s scoring drought with a free throw seconds later. Savannah Unruh added a three at the 5:00 mark to pull Hillsboro to within 24-6. By the time the second quarter was complete, though, Hesston led 32-11.

“We didn’t handle (Hess­ton’s) pressure very well,” coach Nathan Hiebert said. “We knew how they pressure, so we tried to practice some things. For the first quarter, or quarter and a half, I didn’t see any of things we were talking about in practice.”

Hillsboro came out sharp to start the second half as Sienna Kaufman and Abby Sechrist scored easy baskets on designed plays. Mesa Merrell added a basket to bring the score to 36-17 at 5:18.

Unfortu­nately, Hillsboro managed only one more basket the rest of the period, putting the margin at 46-19 after three quarters.

The running clock went into effect at the 6:00 mark of the final quarter, and the Swathers cruised to their 34-point victory.

Kaufman led the Trojans with six points. Hesston’s Elise Kaiser led all scorers with 18. As a team, the Trojans shot 24.2 percent (8-33) from the field while the Swathers shot 45.6 percent (21-46).

“It’s not that we played absolutely horrible—we executed at times,” Hiebert said. “(Hesston is) strong, big and athletic—it’s going to make your life a little bit harder.”

Coming—Hillsboro will take a one-week break from competition before returning to action Jan. 31 at Council Grove.


Final round, Jan. 21

Clay Center 34, Hesston 28 (1st)

Riley Co. 33, Repub. Co 30 (3rd)

Hillsboro 44, Sunrise 29 (5th)

Holcomb 45, Benningt’n 35 (7th)

Second round, Jan. 20

Hillsboro 36, Bennington 15

Hesston 45, Riley Co. 32

Sunrise 39, Holcomb 33

Clay Center 46, Republic Co. 31

Opening round, Jan. 17

Hesston 55, Hillsboro 21

Republic Co. 47, Sunrise 34

Clay Center 49, Holcomb 20

Riley Co. 49, Bennington 29

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