Trojans come close at Pratt

Darian Ratzlaff drives the lane during the second half against Pratt. Defending him is Bryce Stegman. Ratzlaff led the Trojans with 11 points in a losing cause. Don Ratzlaff / Free PressHillsboro battled back from a seven-point deficit with less than 30 seconds to play, but saw an opportunity for victory slip away at the end in a 40-38 loss at Pratt on Friday.

The loss dropped Hills­boro to 10-4 overall and 4-1 in the CKL. Pratt improved to 4-1 in the league and 11-3 for the season.

With Hillsboro trailing, 40-33, Elias Werth nailed a three-point shot with 1:12 to play. After the two teams traded turnovers, the Tro­jans were handed an opportunity to climb back into contention when Pratt was called for a technical foul for unsportsmanlike conduct after a blocked shot and personal foul.

Senior Preston Loewen went to the line to shoot the first of four free throws, but uncharacteristically missed the first two. Joe Knoll then drained the two remaining charities to pull the Trojans to within two points.

Awarded possession as well, Hillsboro had a chance to win or tie the game in the final seconds. But Pratt’s defense refused to allow Hillsboro’s shooters an open look; the game ended when Darian Ratzlaff’s off-balance three-point shot from the corner missed the mark.

“It looked like (Pratt) had the game totally, but we came back and had a chance to win or tie it at the end,” coach Darrel Knoll said. “I think we made the right decision to try go for the shot closer to the end of the game.”

The game was close from the start, thanks to aggressive defense by both teams. Hillsboro took a 12-11 lead at the end of the first quarter when Preston Loewen scored at the buzzer. By halftime, Hillsboro led 20-17.

Darian Ratzlaff opened the third quarter with a pair of threes and Carson Herbel add a two-point basket for a 28-22 lead.

Unfortunately, Hillsboro momentarily lost its shooting touch and Pratt did not. When Noah Myers scored at the 2:37 mark of the third quarter, the home team was back in front, 29-28, and led 32-31 as the quarter ended.

Pratt pushed the lead to seven points with an 8-2 surge at the start of the fourth quarter before the Trojans mounted their final comeback.

“I’m proud of the guys for fighting hard,” coach Knoll said. “We know we could have won this game, the guys were really disappointed. But we just have to go on to the next game.”

Ratzlaff led the Trojans with 11 points. Pratt was led by Samson Kohman, a 6-feet-4-inch athletic leaper who scored 19 points, including two impressive slam dunks.

Council Grove—Hillsboro, ranked No. 9 in Class 2A, started well but unraveled as the game went along, losing to the home team, 69-51.

Hillsboro slipped to 11-3 for the season while the Braves improved to 10-4.

The Trojans started strong, building a 21-13 lead by the end of the first quarter. They led by as much as 24-15 when Darian Ratzlaff drilled a three-pointer at the 6:53 mark.

Suddenly, somebody flipped a switch. Over the next two minutes, the Braves launched an 8-0 run to pull within 24-23. Hills­boro was never quite the same team after that, struggling with poor shooting and making uncharacteristic turnovers. That enabled Council Grove to take a 35-31 halftime lead on 13-for-19 field goal accuracy for the first two quarters.

“We got into some foul trouble, and then we had few turnovers in a row,” coach Darrel Knoll said about the sea change. “Suddenly, we got bumped off guys we were guarding earlier, and they started scoring.”

The Trojans’ issues only intensified during the second half. Hillsboro missed its first seven shots, including four threes. Meanwhile, Council Grove drained two threes and a two-pointer in four attempts.

By the end of the third quarter, the home team built a 49-40 lead. The Braves poured salt on the wound by winning the fourth quarter, 20-11.

Council Grove shot 51 percent (24-47) from the floor, including seven of 11 three-point attempts.

Hillsboro suffered its worst shooting night of the season, hitting 20 of 70 shots (29 percent). The Trojans launched 30 three-point attempts, but made only eight (27 percent).

Joe Knoll was a bright spot for Hillsboro. The sophomore came off the bench to score a team-high 16 points. Ratzlaff added 10 points.

Coming—After two games on the road, the Trojans were scheduled to host Lyons on Tuesday and Kingman on Friday at Brown Gymnasium.

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