Mustangs kick Trojans from 3A playoffs

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09HHHSgbStRooker62.jpg

Tiffany Rooker contends with tough defense against Southwestern Heights defender Courtney Campbell during the first half of Hillsboro?s 49-38 season-ending loss March 11. Rooker?s score ended a 15-0 Mustangs run that spanned nearly nine minutes.

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Kassidi Luthi is fouled by Deni Jacobs early in Wednesday?s game. Luthi was held to a single point by the Mustangs.

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Candace Weinbrenner protects the ball from the pressure of Vivian Olvera.

The Hillsboro High School girls outplayed the eventual Class 3A state champion essentially for three of the four quarters in their opening game last Wednesday in Hutchinson.

Unfortunately, that remaining quarter was one doozy of a swoon.

A dry spell of nearly nine minutes that started late in the second quarter proved to be too much to overcome as Hillsboro lost to No. 1 seeded Southwest?ern Heights, 49-38.

The Trojans proved to be all the Mustangs could handle for the first 11 minutes of the contest. Eight points by Dakota Kaufman in final 4:27 of the first period vaulted the Trojans into a 12-9 lead at the first break.

?The whole week we talked about being aggressive and attacking them because we knew that one of the best ways to beat an aggressive team is to be aggressive back at them,? coach Nathan Hiebert said.

?Sometimes they?re taken off guard by that.?

Kaufman scored Hillsboro?s first four points of the second quarter, including a basket at the 3:12 mark that tied the contest at 16-16.

But then the implosion hit and lasted for the next 8:46. Nine turnovers and four missed shots later, Tiffany Rooker finally broke the drought with a traditional three-point play to end a 15-0 South?western run.

By the end of the third period, the Mustangs appeared comfortably ahead at 37-20 and Kaufman and Kassidi Luthi were both watching from the Hillsboro bench with four fouls. Kaufman missed the last 5:25 of the third quarter and Luthi the last 4:15.

?Southwestern Heights did a great job of switching some things up but keeping the pressure on us,? Hiebert said. ?We got a little more tentative.

?I?d like to say it didn?t matter, but it did matter that both of our post players were getting in foul trouble,? he added. ?If we don?t have either Dakota or Kassidi on the floor, it really causes some issues for us.?

Both players re-entered the game for the fourth quarter. But Britny Butler hit a 3-pointer from the wing in the early seconds to give the Mustangs their largest lead of the night at 40-20.

To their credit, the Trojans did not quit. Allie Faul responded to Butler?s trey with one of her own seconds later, igniting a 12-2 Trojan run over the next 3:37 to close the gap to 42-32 with 4:00 to play.

?(Prior to) the fourth quarter, we really talked about more penetration to the basket and attacking more,? Hiebert said. ?All of a sudden, it worked once or twice and that picks up your defensive intensity and caused some turnovers by the other team. That keeps building.?

But two more Trojan turnovers helped Southwestern regroup for five unanswered points over the next 2:18, all but extinguishing hope of a miraculous come-from-behind upset.

Kaufman scored two more baskets in the final minute of the game to finish with 20 points in a little more than 23 minutes of playing time. She made eight of 12 shots from the floor.

?You?re always proud of a team that doesn?t quit,? Hiebert said. ?That was definitely the case here. It was a great testament to those girls. It was exciting to see their belief in themselves.?

The biggest stat of the game was Hillsboro?s 25 turnovers for the night, with all but five coming from a mix of five perimeter players. Southwestern outscored Hillsboro off turnovers, 22-7.

The Trojans outshot South?western from the floor, 41 percent (12-29) to 37 percent (16-43), and even out-rebounded the taller Mustangs, 28-25.

With the loss, the Trojans ended their season with a 14-10 mark after struggling to a 5-6 record through January.

?I was so pleased this year with the attitude of the girls and their willingness to get better,? Hiebert said.?

Seniors Luthi, Rooker, Cassie Kroeker and Abi Humber completed their Trojan careers, but the future looks promising with three core starters?Kaufman, Faul and Candace Weinbren?ner?returning, plus players coming up from a 15-4 junior-varsity team.

?What I?m interested to see now is if players want to get to the next level,? Hiebert said. ?A lot of that has to happen in the offseason. That?s my challenge: What are you going to do to improve yourself??

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