The Hillsboro High School girls proved the adage to be true once again: Defense wins championships.
The Trojans dominated the Halstead Dragons on the defensive end of the floor on the way to a relatively easy 38-22 victory in the finals of the Class 3A sub-state tournament Saturday in Marion.
How dominant were they? Halstead shot 12 percent from the floor for the game and didn?t score a single point until Alexi Bohling made one of two free-throws with 6:40 to play in the second quarter.
By then Hillsboro was leading 9-0, which was the score at the end of the first period.
The Trojans pushed the margin by halftime to 20-5. Halstead never made a serious run as the lead expanded to 27-10 through three quarters and was 37-19 when coach Nathan Hiebert cleared his bench with 1:17 to play.
Key to the Trojan victory was the play of guards Candace Weinbrenner and Allie Faul, who held Halstead?s top outside shooters, Bohling and Marissa Vermillion, to three points apiece and 0-for-16 shooting from the floor.
Halstead?s only source of effective offense in the contest was 6-foot-2 Rebecca Denny, who scored 10 points.
As a team, Halstead managed only five baskets in 42 attempts and were 1-for-13 from behind the arc.
?Defensively, I was very, very, very proud of the girls,? Hiebert said. ?We talked about two girls we had to stop?Vermillion and Bohling. Bohling put up 24 (points) the other night. She?s a good player.
?That testifies to Candace Weinbrenner?she did not leave her all night. And Allie just beat up on Vermillion. Denny had some looks, but we were really frustating them. Mentally, we had it won early.?
Hillsboro, meanwhile, shot slightly below their recent norm at 35 percent (13-37). Kassidi Luthi came off the bench and, working effectively off the feeds of Dakota Kaufman in the high-low offense, scored 14 points to lead Hillsboro. Kaufman added 10 points with 11 rebounds and five assists.
?It really worked well,? Hiebert said of the high-low approach. ?At halftime we told whoever Denny was guarding to stay high (in the lane). It so happened she guarded Dakota. Dakota stayed out and just fed Luthi, and she reaped the benefits of that.?
With the win, Hillsboro will take a 14-9 record to Hutchinson Wednesday when the Trojans open play in the Class 3A state tournament. Halstead?s season ended with an identical record.
The trip to state is an improbable finish for a team that struggled to find itself through the first half of the season. It helped that the sub-state field was devoid of a dominant team, but the Trojans proved they were the class of the field.
?The whole year we saw glimpses of (good) things,? Hiebert said. ?We knew this team could do something special if they wanted to. It was just a matter of peaking at the right time.
?We started playing better at the end,? he added. ?Coaches (from other teams) would tell us they were not excited about coming to our place or having us show up. So I?m proud of our girls.?
Hillsboro 47, Sedgwick 31
Semifinal, March 5
For the second time in two post-season games, Hillsboro used a strong first-half performance to propel itself to victory.
Sophomore Allie Faul set the tone early in this semifinal matchup, twice stealing the ball and scoring barely a minute into the contest.
Tiffany Rooker added a basket, Dakota Kaufman scored twice and added a bonus free-throw, and Abi Humber scored in the paint to push the margin to 13-2 at the 1:43 mark.
After Sedgwick managed a second basket, Faul unloaded a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left to give HHS a 16-4 margin at the first break.
?That first quarter we did exactly what we talked about, and good things happened,? coach Nathan Hiebert said. ?Good defense gives you easy buckets on offense, and then the defense picks up even more. I?m proud of what they did.?
Hillsboro continued its domination into the second period, again using defense to create transition opportunities on offense. By the time the buzzer sounded the arrival of halftime, Hillsboro was ahead 25-7.
The Trojan defense contributed to 16 Sedgwick turn?overs and 3-for-17 shooting by the Cardinals through the first two quarters.
With the score 27-13 following a slow Trojan start in the third quarter, Faul scored on a great pass from Kaufman at the 4:58 mark, then drained a 3-pointer from the wing. Candace Wein?brenner swished a pair of free-throws and Hillsboro enjoyed its largest lead of the game at 34-13 with 3:15 left in the period.
The Trojans then stumbled into four straight turnovers and a missed shot, enabling Sedg?wick to close the gap to 34-21. Kassidi Luthi scored for Hills?boro on an assist from Kaufman to make the score 36-21 at the final break.
Sedgwick?s rally continued into the fourth quarter and when Sandra Douvier scored at the 6:07 mark, the Cardinals were within 38-29.
But Hillsboro gathered itself and launched an 8-0 run before Sedgwick added the final points of the game with 1:11 to go. Rooker contributed four points and a steal to the final surge.
?Sedgwick did a nice job of running and jumping and throwing something different at us that we hadn?t seen yet,? Hiebert said. ?It took us a while to figure out how to handle that. Once we did, I thought we did a better job.?
Hillsboro shot 47 percent (17-36) from the floor for the game while limiting Sedgwick to 29 percent (12-41) shooting. The Cardinals held a huge 35-20 advantage in rebounds, but they also committed 26 turnovers to Hillsboro?s 14.
Faul finished with five steals and a team-high 15 points to pace HHS.
?The last couple of games, Allie?s been doing some nice things,? Hiebert said. ?The thing that I?m proud about is that her first four points were off of steals, so it starts with defense. That?s giving her easier shots, and then everything else gets a little more into the flow of things.?
Kaufman added 11 points, seven rebounds and a season-high seven assists as HHS improved to 13-9 and Sedgwick finished its season at 10-12.
?Dakota had some nice passes,? Hiebert said. ?Every?one is watching her (to score), which gives some other girls some nice open shots.?