The Hillsboro boys were bent on returning the program to the state tournament for the first time since 2004?and, for good measure, to avenge a 54-49 loss to Moundridge back in December.
While the Trojans brought plenty of intensity to their sub-state championship showdown at Sedgwick Saturday night, the Wildcats claimed another five-point victory, 48-43, by better executing the sport?s basic skill: shooting the basketball.
Considering the intensity of Hillsboro?s defense, Moundridge shot an impressive 52 percent from the floor (16-31) and made 14 of 16 free throws. Hillsboro, meanwhile, finished with runner-up results: 37 percent (14-38) from the floor and 10 of 16 from the line.
?It had nothing to do with our effort,? coach Darrel Knoll said of the loss. ?Our defense was really good. You hold somebody to 48 points, you hope you can score enough to win the game.
?They made their free throws and we didn?t match their free throws like we should have,? he added. ?If we had made a couple of good shots that we missed, it would have been a different story.?
Aided by a couple of Trojan turnovers out of the gate, Moundridge jumped to a 4-0 lead. But the Trojans responded with an 11-2 run midway through the period to claim an 11-6 lead.
But the Wildcats? big gun, Trey Unrau, scored seven points in the final 1:39 as Moundridge finished the quarter with a 10-1 run for a 16-12 lead at the first break.
The two teams played to an 8-8 standoff in the second period as defense held the upper hand for both teams. Aided by seven more Hillsboro turnovers, Moundridge maintained its four-point edge, 24-20, as the half ended.
?We made some questionable passes down the court, and tried to force it too much, maybe,? Knoll said. ?Too many turnovers in the second quarter I thought was huge. We were lucky to be down four at halftime.?
Hillsboro picked up its game to start the third quarter, reclaiming the lead at 29-28 when Shaq Thiessen made one of two free throws at the 4:39 mark. Josh Wiebe accounted for five points and Christian Ratzlaff hit his second 3-pointer of the night to help fuel Hills?boro?s 9-4 surge.
But Moundridge rallied in the final three minutes to regain the lead as the third quarter ended, 34-33. Ratzlaff looped in a rebound with one second left to pull HHS to within a point.
When Wiebe scored the first basket of the final quarter at the 5:41 mark, Hillsboro took its last lead. Unrau responded a 3-pointer, then made four free throws in two trips to the line, giving Moundridge a 41-36 lead with 3:56 to play.
But Ratzlaff came back with another three and Wiebe canned a pair of free throws to tie the game with 2:30 left. That?s when Moundridge?s Alexander Otte came alive with a basket in the paint and a pair of free throws on consecutive possessions to give Moundridge a 45-41 edge with 1:24 left.
With sufficient time for a comeback, Hillsboro committed one last turnover. Unrau canned two free throws with 36.7 seconds left to push the lead to 47-41.
The Trojans got two more points from Ratzlaff with 28 seconds to go, but Otte put the game beyond the realm of miracles by making one of two free throws with 17.9 seconds remaining.
Ratzlaff scored 18 points for Hillsboro in the season finale. Wiebe finished with 10 as the Trojans closed the door on an outstanding season with an 18-5 record. Unrau led Moundridge (20-3) with 22 points and Otte added 12.
?They?re a really good team,? Knoll said of the victors. ?They executed well. I thought we played them really hard, but offensively we just didn?t get it done tonight. We made just too many mistakes on offense, that?s really the bottom line.?
The Trojans will lose one senior starter in Jesse Allen, as well as classmates Devin Dick, Luke Moore and Brandon Rooker.
?Jesse?s put a lot into everything, as did the other guys,? Knoll said. ?The hard part is to go out on a game that we could have just as easily won.
?But we had a great season,? he added. ?I?m really proud of what we did this year. We have a great group. I had a lot of fun coaching this team just because of the effort and their ability to get up and down.
?There were a lot of good things about this team that made it an enjoyable year for me and my assistant coaches.?
HHS 48, Remington 44
One quarter of effective offense proved to be the difference in Hillsboro?s win over Remington Thursday.
The Trojans struggled to make a basket in the first period, missing their first seven attempts and shooting 3-for-14 for the quarter. But their defense was good enough to keep the game close. Shaq Thiessen?s bucket at the buzzer pulled HHS to within 7-6 at the first break.
Barely 24 seconds into the second quarter, Thiessen scored in the paint on a nice assist from Brett Weinbrenner. The play ignited a pivotal 8-0 run that vaulted the Trojans into a 12-7 lead, thanks in part to three Bronco turnovers. Josh Wiebe, Wein?brenner and Thiessen provided the other three baskets during the run.
Remington responded with its only two field goals of the quarter, but Hillsboro finished the period with a 5-1 run to lead at intermission, 19-12.
The third quarter ended as a 14-14 standoff. But it took Jesse Allen?s four straight free-throws on consecutive one-and-one situations in the final 1:04 to enable Hillsboro to maintain its seven-point lead as the quarter ended, 33-26.
With the Trojans leading 37-32 midway through the final quarter, Allen hit two more free throws then scored off a steal to expand Hillsboro?s lead to 41-33 with 3:11 to play.
After baskets by Hillsboro?s Christian Ratzlaff and Reming?ton?s Caleb Tanner, the Trojans had a chance to nail down the victory at the free-throw line. But they combined for 1-for-6 shooting in a span from 55.8 seconds to 15.8 seconds left in the game.
Rem?ington pulled to within two points at 46-44 when Kyle Regier drained a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left.
After a Bronco timeout, Wein?brenner was fouled on the inbounds pass. With 1.6 seconds showing, the sophomore calmly sank both double-bonus free throws to clinch the victory at 48-44.
Thiessen finished as the top scorer for Hillsboro with 13 points; Allen added 11 and Weinbrenner 10. As a team, the Trojans shot 41 percent from the floor (17-41) despite going 0-for-14 from behind the arc.
?Sometimes that second (round) game is a tough one to get through,? coach Darrel Knoll said. ?But I was happy with the way we battled, and in the second quarter we got a little bit of a lead.?
Tanner led the Broncos with 13 points and Tim Wedel added 11. As a team, Remington made 17 of 37 shots (46 percent) from the field, including two of 10 3-point attempts.