It appeared the No. 1 seeded Wildcats were primed to avenge their early-season loss to the Trojans, building an 8-2 lead in the first 2:30 of the game, then extending it to 17-7 after the first quarter.
?Before the game we talked how this gym lends itself to playing on your emotions?it?s loud,? coach Nathan Hiebert said. ?We really allowed our emotions to control how we played. We didn?t have a lot of patience, defensively.?
The Trojans turned momentum in their favor in the second quarter by limiting the Wildcats to 2-for-9 shooting from the floor. Alex Ratzlaff, scoreless in the first quarter, poured in nine points and Abby Sechrist added five as the Trojans tied the game at 23 with 1:08 left in the half. Moundridge scored once more to take a 25-23 lead into halftime.
The Wildcats scored the first five points of the third quarter, but Hillsboro battled back. When Ratzlaff scored a traditional three-point play with 1:53 left in the quarter, the Trojans led for the first time, 35-34.
In the fourth quarter, the Trojans fell behind 40-37 at the 5:19 mark, but a 5-0 burst put the Trojans in front, 42-40, with 4:06 to go. Hillsboro was still leading, 47-45, when Moundridge?s Peri Lange tied the game with 42.8 seconds to play.
The Trojans worked the clock for a last shot, but while Ratzlaff was dribbling an official called a 5-second violation with 20 seconds left. Moundridge missed a shot as time ran out.
Early in the overtime, Tassanee Sanchez gave Hillsboro its last lead with a couple of free throws. But Natalie Kaufman countered with four points for a 51-49 Wildcat lead.
With Moundridge leading 55-51, Ratzlaff hit a huge three to cut the deficit to one with 50.4 seconds to go. But the Wildcats made five of six free throws over the next 41 seconds to push the Trojans beyond comeback range at 60-54. Ratzlaff hit a three with three seconds left, but the Wildcats ran out the clock for the win.
The senior standout completed her high school basketball career with a 27-point effort. Sanchez and Sechrist each added nine. Hillsboro finished with an 11-11 record. Moundridge went on to win the sub-state title.
?We did some really, really good things this season,? Hiebert said, noting previous wins against Moundridge, Remington and Pratt and strong effort in a loss to Hesston. ?We were able to compete against some top-caliber teams.?
?Sometimes we?re not the most athletic on the floor, but the girls do a nice job of working together defending, and when we did that we did some really nice things.?
Hiebert will lose three seniors: Ratzlaff, Sanchez and Marah Franz.
?Alex did a lot for our team,? he said. ?We?re going to miss our leading scorer and leading rebounder. She got a lot of steals and assists, too. We?re going to have a big void. She has a strong, competitive drive. She doesn?t like to lose, and that goes a long way.?
Sanchez, a senior transfer from Thailand, was the team?s other primary scorer.
?It was a huge blessing to have her come this year,? Hiebert said. ?She has a knack of getting in passing lanes and several games she was a difference maker for us. She had to work really hard because the American game here is very different from what she played in Thailand. I?m really proud of how she handled that.?
Franz, like Ratzlaff, was a four-year player.
?With Marah, I knew what I was going to get,? Hiebert said. ?I could trust her to run the things we needed to run, to be in the spots she needed to be in. It?s been fun to see the growth she had from her freshman year to her senior year.?