The Hillsboro boys let an eight-point fourth-quarter lead slip away, and it cost them their first defeat of the season in a 57-53 decision against Southeast of Saline Thursday at Brown Gymnasium.
Both teams came into the game undefeated and state ranked. Earlier in the week, Hillsboro made its first appearance in the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association as the No. 9 team in Class 2A and had a chance for a statement win against Southeast, ranked seventh in 3A.
The game started slowly for the home team. SES jumped to a 5-0 lead before Hillsboro finally broke the ice on a pair of free throws by Elias Werth with 3:04 left in the first period. By the end of it, the visiting Trojans led the home team, 9-6.
By halftime SES led, 17-16, after Hillsboro’s Wes Shaw scored in the paint with 27 second left.
The low-scoring standoff took a major turn in the second half. Hillsboro came out on fire offensively. The home team pieced together a 14-7 surge in the first 4:43 to build a 30-24 lead after a steal and basket by Preston Loewen.
Darian Ratzlaff contributed three three-point baskets during the run and Carson Herbel added one.
By the end of the quarter, Hillsboro led 39-34 when Werth drained a final three with 17 seconds left.
The home team maintained control of the contest as the final quarter began. In fact, when Loewen hit a 12-foot jumper with 5:19 left, Hillsboro enjoyed its biggest lead of the game, 46-38.
But SES did not give up—despite missing six consecutive free throws over the next 1:30. After a timeout to regroup, Southeast turned up its defensive pressure, scoring layups on back-to-back steals to ignite a 10-0 run that propelled Southeast back into the lead at 48-46 with 2:43 to play.
“We struggled to get anything going our way from the middle of the third quarter on,” coach Darrel Knoll said. “They did a good job of driving on us, and that was when the whole tide kind of changed.”
Hillsboro never fully recovered, and was unable to get a shot to drop until Werth scored in the final seconds for the 57-53 final score.
Ratzlaff led Hillsboro with 15 points and Loewen added 12 as Hillsboro slipped to 4-1 for the season.
“We played to win tonight,” Knoll said. “I know we ended up losing, but the guys played hard against a really good team. We played well enough that we deserved to win, but it just didn’t happen that way.”
Coming—Hillsboro was scheduled to complete its pre-holiday season with a game at Marion on Tuesday. Go to hillsborofreepress.com for same-night coverage.