It didn’t take long to sense that the matchup between the Hillsboro and Marion girls was going to be a close battle Tuesday at Brown Gymnasium.
The two teams battled to the very end before the Warriors escaped with a 36-35 victory over the Trojans when Alli Molleker scored the winning basket with 30 second left in the game.
Marion built an 8-5 lead when Corrine Crab scored with 3:32 left in the opening quarter. But the Warriors ran through a rough stretch with seven turnovers, no baskets and only two free throws to their credit.
Even so, the Warriors only trailed Hillsboro, 14-10, as the quarter ended.
The two teams battled evenly the entire second quarter, but a 2-point basket by Molleker put the Warriors in front at halftime, 20-19.
Marion appeared to take charge in the third quarter with a 6-2 surge for a 26-21 lead. Hillsboro countered with a two-point basket by Tuesday Weisbeck and a 3-pointer from Abby Sechrist in the final three minutes to tie the game at 26 as the quarter ended.
The final quarter boiled down to a battle of wills. Marion enjoyed a 32-28 lead when Kourtney Hansen scored with 3:41 remaining. But Hillsboro’s Trinity Malm responded with a basket in the lane 15 seconds later, freshman Teegan Werth followed with a three-pointer with 2:37 to play that put the Trojans on top, 33-32.
Both teams made two free throws to make the score 35-34 with 1:08 left before Molleker scored what turned out to be the winning basket.
Hansen led the Warrior attack with 13 points, including 7-for-11 shooting from the free-throw line. She also pulled down a team-leading 10 rebounds. As a team, Marion shot 13-37 (35 percent) from the floor but 9-13 (70 percent) from the line.
Marion’s Achilles heel turned out to be turnovers. The Warriors committed 28 compared to Hillsboro’s 17.
The Trojans struggled with shooting for most of the night. No one reached double-digit points for Hillsboro, but senior Sienna Kaufman scored eight points to lead the team. Abby Sechrist and Teegan Werth each added seven points.
The Trojans made 11 of 49 shots from the floor (22 percent) including two of 11 shots from behind the arc. The team made only 11 of 20 free throws, which may have been the deciding factor.
Hillsboro Coach Nathan Hiebert was disappointed in the loss, but saw a lot of good things from his maturing team.
“I was really pleased that we held (Marion) to 36 points, and we really bothered them,” he said. “Defensively I was really, really pleased.
“Offensively, in the first half Sienna (Kaufman) got some transition buckets for us, Abby was running the floor well and Kinsey got one (transition basket).
“Second half, we didn’t get any transition points. Marion got some transition and we didn’t—that was probably the difference in the game.”
Marion coach Kelly Robson noted the turnovers as well.
“It was a turnover fest tonight,” he said. “We’ve got to clean that up, and we’ll just keep working at it. We’ll try to get more pressure in practice so that maybe we can work against that kind of thing a little bit more.
“(Hillsboro’s) got some pretty good young athletes out there chasing us around pretty hard,” he added. “I was hoping our senior guards could keep their heads a little bit better and not be flustered by that.”
Robson credited his team’s resolve in the final seconds of the game.
“We just kept fighting,” he said. “Both teams were battling at the end. The bounce goes your way sometimes, and sometimes it doesn’t.
“Several years ago, we lost a half dozen games by four points or less, and the ball just didn’t go our way. This year it went our way, this time.”
With the victory, Marion improves to 4-2 at the holiday break, while Hillsboro slips to 4-2.
Coming—Marion’s next games will be Jan. 5 at Ell-Saline. Hillsboro will resume competition Jan. 2 when the Trojans travel to Nickerson.