The Hillsboro boys overcame a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit, but didn?t have enough firepower left to avoid a 48-43 loss to Halstead in the first round of sub-state play Tuesday at Brown Gymnasium.
When Halstead?s Simon McKee scored consecutive layups off a pair of Trojan turnovers in the first 1:09 of the fourth period?including an alley-oop backdoor basket?the Trojans were down by their biggest margin, 33-24.
After a Trojan timeout, Hills?boro came back firing. Brett Weinbrenner and Jarod Hamm hit back-to-back three-pointers, Christian Ratzlaff followed with a pair of free throws, Tyrell Thiessen scored in the paint off a nice assist from Ratzlaff, and Hamm capped the 12-3 run with a basket on a drive to the hole.
The game suddenly was tied at 36 with 4:10 to play.
Halstead called a timeout, then jumped back in front on a basket by Dakota Becker and a free throw and basket by McKee, all aided by two more Trojan turnovers. With the score 41-36, Thiessen scored again in the paint but missed the bonus free throw at the 2:29 mark.
The Trojans got as close as 45-43 when Hamm hit his fourth three-pointer of the night with 28 seconds to play. Ultimately, Halstead held Hillsboro at bay by hitting nine of 10 free throws over the final 1:46.
Coach Darrel Knoll said his team?s 16 turnovers?Halstead committed only eight?was a key factor in the outcome, but he was pleased with the way his team didn?t let those mistakes shatter their focus.
?We did keep battling, we made some good plays, but we just didn?t get it done at the end,? he said.
McKee was the game changer, breaking loose for 26 points on 8-for-11 free-throw shooting and 9-for-19 shooting from the floor.
?We tried to trade some guys in on him, and Jesse (Allen) got in foul trouble early,? Knoll said. ?(McKee is) a tough match-up for us.?
Hamm came off the bench to pace Hillsboro with 14 points in his final game. The senior?s long-range shooting was instrumental both early and late in the contest. He hit his first two threes midway through the second period, fueling a run that moved Hillsboro from being down 13-5 to being down 18-17 with 2:31 left in the half.
?I thought Jarod did a nice job of being aggressive,? Knoll said. ?He moved to the open spot and took good shots. He really knocked those down, and I was really happy for him.
?Offensively, he helped us get it done. It was a great game for Jarod to end his career on, but I know he?d rather be on the winning side than have a good game and lose.?
As a team, the Trojans shot 39 percent from the floor (14-36), including 8-for-14 accuracy from behind the arc.
Halstead made 41 percent of its shots from the floor (15-37), but enjoyed an 11-point advantage at the free-throw line, making 18-for-27 compared to 7-for-11 for Hillsboro.
?We just made too many mistakes when it came right down to it, offensively,? Knoll said. ?Defen?sively, I thought we played a decent game for the most part. We gave up a few easy baskets, but (the Dragons) execute well and they?re a great team.?
With the loss, the Trojans finished the season with an 11-10 record, which is a nine-win improvement from a year ago. Halstead improved to 12-9 and qualified to play Hutch Trinity in the semifinals.
Knoll was disappointed by his team?s early exit from the tournament, but said the squad made significant progress during the year.
?One of things I was really pleased with was our ability to battle,? he said.
?Several games we got ourselves in deep holes, came back and really made a game of it. Virtually every game we got behind, we came back and made it a game.
?I really thought we improved ourselves a ton in terms of just executing. We did a lot of things better.?