The 5-14 Trojans knew they had a chance to earn a sixth win versus the 6-12 Vikings—and they played like it for the first three quarters.
Hillsboro came out strong, scoring the game’s first seven points and keeping the home team off the board for almost 5 minutes. The Trojans led 11-5 when the quarter ended.
Hillsboro bumped the lead to 22-14 by halftime when Trinity Malm hit a free throw and a basket and Rebecca Kaufman drained a three-pointer for a 6-0 surge in the final 1:42.
The third quarter turned into the Katie Bellah show. The Viking senior scored 13 points to almost single-handedly pull her team into a 34-34 tie as the quarter ended.
Bellah added two more free throws in the fourth quarter to give her team a 38-37 lead, but was sent to the bench with her fifth foul and her 22 points with 6:27 left in the game.
Bellah’s early departure seemed to be the break the Trojans needed to claim a win and snap their six-game losing streak.
But Bellah’s teammates stepped up in a big way, scoring 17 points, including 12 of 14 free throws, down the home stretch to secure the victory.
Hillsboro was still in contention at 49-45 with 2:08 to play after Sienna Kaufman hit a 10-foot basket. But the Trojans wouldn’t score again until Savannah Unruh hit a three with 29 seconds to play. By then it was too little, too late.
Malm led Hillsboro with a career-best 13 points, followed by Mesa Merrell with nine and Sienna Kaufman, back in action after a two-game injury absence, with seven.
The Trojans outshot their hosts, 39 percent (16-41) to 32 percent (15-47). But the Vikings won the game at the free-throw line, hitting 21-32 charities compared to 11-19 for Hillsboro.
Coach Nathan Hiebert praised his five starters.
“Rebecca, Savannah, Abby (Sechrist), Trin and Paige (Proffitt)—those five girls did a great job starting our game,” he said. “We made some mistakes, but they defended well, they executed on offense, they shared the ball well and we took easy and great shots.”
He added, “After a while, maybe we got tired, but we showed some selfishness, so we forced some shots, forced some passes and that hurt us.”
The Trojans finished the regular season with an 0-10 record in the Central Kansas League and a 5-15 record overall.
Coming—Hillsboro was to travel to Moundridge Tuesday for the first round of the Class 2A sub-state tournament. Hillsboro is the eighth seed and Moundridge (15-4) is the top seed. The winner will play its next game at Canton-Galva, the sub-state host.
For game results go to hillsborofreepress.com.