It was a game worthy of a competitive but neighborly rivalry when Hillsboro hosted Marion at Brown Gymnasium to complete the pre-holiday schedule for both schools.
Both teams battled hard throughout the contest, but in the end the game belonged to the home team, 53-41.
Hillsboro’s Darian Ratzlaff opened the scoring with a 3-pointer 39 seconds into the contest, and teammate Elias Werth ended the scoring with a 3-pointer with a second left in the first quarter.
But when the smoke cleared the game was tied at 14-14, thanks in part to a pair of threes by Marion’s Evann Heidebrecht and two baskets each by Sam Zinn and Zach Stuchlik.
Both teams suffered through a dry second quarter. Hillsboro made only three baskets in 15 attempts while Marion made one in 13 attempts.
With less than two minutes left in the half, the Trojans led 19-17. But a late 6-2 surge gave the home team a 25-19 lead at intermission.
“In the first half we missed I don’t know how many shots in a row,” Hillsboro coach Darrel Knoll said. “We are a better shooting team than we’ve shot the past two games. I think we’re just rushing it a little bit. We’ve had too many possessions with one or two passes and then we try to shoot it.”
Marion made sure Hillsboro’s lead didn’t last long as the third quarter began. In the first minute, Chase Stringer hit a pair of free throws, and Sam Zinn nailed a three-pointer to pull the Warriors to within 25-24.
Marion then took a 28-27 lead when Stringer scored in the paint at the 5:12 mark. When Zinn scored with 1:06 left in the third quarter the game was tied at 32.
In the final 52 seconds, Werth hit a three-pointer, and after a Marion turnover Caleb Rempel hit a three at the buzzer to give Hillsboro a 38-32 lead through three quarters.
The Trojans began the final quarter with a 9-5 spurt with Wes Shaw scoring in the lane for the first double-digit lead of the night at 47-37 with 2:42 to play. Stringer hit a pair of baskets down the stretch for Marion, but Hillsboro held off a final charge with a basket by Werth, two free throws by Ratzlaff and a score in the lane by Caleb Potucek with 22 seconds remaining.
The Trojans were led by their veteran guards. Ratzlaff led all scorers with 20 points and Werth chipped in 13. As a team, the Trojans made less than 32 percent (18-57) from the floor, but did make 11 of 13 free throws.
“Tonight was a really good game for this team and how we played,” Knoll said. “I was just really pleased with how we kept playing, even when we were missing shots and things weren’t going our way. Sometimes when you’re not playing well on offense you tend to let down defensively. Tonight we didn’t do that.”
Warrior coach Randy Skiles said his team didn’t play with enough patience.
“Every single game we’ve played, I felt like we’ve had a chance to win, except the last couple minutes of the game,” he said. “Then we just try to make up our deficit in one play. As far as I know, they don’t have a 10-point basket, and I think some of our kids think that they do.
“We just speed it up, and a lot of that comes from inexperience.”
Evann Heidebrecht led Marion with 14 points and Zinn added 10 to pace the Warriors. As a team, Marion shot 31 percent (16-52) from the floor and made six of 12 free throws.
Neither team shot particularly well behind the arc: Hillsboro 6-20 (30 percent) and Marion 3-12 (25 percent). The two teams were nearly even on the boards, 40 for Marion and 39 for Hillsboro.
“Our biggest challenge right now is rebounding, and what gets me is that rebounding is just effort—it really is,” Skiles said. “So many times we’re caught standing watching the game, and they’d slip in and grab an offensive board and put it back up.”
The win improved Hillsboro’s record to 5-1 while Marion slipped to 2-4.
Coming—Hillsboro will resume competition Jan. 2 when the Trojans travel to Nickerson. Marion’s next games will be Jan. 5 at Ell-Saline.