When the Hillsboro boys? furious fourth-quarter rally fell short at Haven last Tuesday, the 59-51 loss in the regular-season finale put the Trojans? chance to play its sub-state opener at home in jeopardy.
As it turned out, the basketball gods smiled on the Trojans. Even though Halstead won its last game to match Hills?boro?s 11-9 season record, the Trojans won the coin toss the next day to claim the fourth seed and home-court advantage against the fifth-seeded Dragons.
Hillsboro, trailing at Haven 47-26 after three quarters, nearly pulled off a miracle finish against the Wildcats.
Starting the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run in the first 1:40, the Trojans battled all the way to within 57-51 when Jarod Hamm nailed a three-pointer with 18 seconds to go.
But Haven drew a foul on either side of a Trojan missed shot, and cashed in two of four free throws in the final 16 seconds to seal the victory.
Christian Ratzlaff scored 12 of his team-high 16 points during the final period.
?I really was proud of the second half, but I?m really disappointed about the loss in terms of just the way we played,? coach Darrel Knoll said.
It was a rocky first half for Hills?boro, who had more turn?overs (12) than shot attempts (11) on the way to an 11-6 deficit after one quarter and a 28-11 hole by halftime.
To add injury to insult, Hillsboro starter Jesse Allen hurt his shoulder in the first half and did not play the rest of the night.
?The tide really changed when Jessie got hurt,? Knoll said. ?I thought were attacking OK, but we spent too much time shooting perimeter shots. (The Wildcats) made every shot they took, there for a while. That?s pretty tough to defend when they?re doing that.?
The Trojans picked up their play in the third quarter, but could not gain ground on the scoreboard. In fact, Haven turned a four-point play in the final seconds into its largest lead of the night as the quarter ended.
?I felt, as a team, we weren?t where we needed to be tonight,? Knoll said. ?That?s not taking anything away from Haven, but I really felt like the first half we allowed them to do whatever they wanted to do.
?At halftime I challenged them really hard that we?ve got to come out and play like we can play and be aggressive.?
Brett Weinbrenner complemented Ratzlaff?s output with 14 points while senior Ben Beber?meyer added 12. Haven?s Ridge Foster led all scorers with 17.
As a team, Hills?boro shot 46 percent (22-48) from the floor. Haven made 53 percent (20-38). Haven had the edge at the free-throw line, going 15 for 25 compared to seven for 13 for the Trojans.
With the win, Haven finished its regular season at 13-7.
Coming?Hillsboro?s sub-state opener against Halstead will be the rubber match of the season. Halstead defeated Hillsboro early in January, while the Trojans won Feb. 18 at Brown Gymnasium.
For a same-night report of that game, go to hillsborofreepress.com.