The Trojans sent a message that this year’s team will be a force to be reckoned with a 17-5 blitzkrieg of the Black Bears out of the gate, including four three-point baskets.
Darian Ratzlaff hit the first three at the 6:16 mark, Joe Knoll chipped in the second at 5:40, Ratzlaff nailed the third with 2:42 left and Elias Werth capped the first-quarter with a three in the final four seconds.
By halftime, Hillsboro inflated its 21-9 first-quarter lead to 35-14. Werth hit back-to-back threes midway through the quarter, plus a two-pointer just over a minute later, for an eight-point personal run and a 29-14 team lead at the 2:47 mark.
Hillsboro drained six of eight free-throws down the stretch to complete a 14-0 run to intermission.
The Trojans came out tentatively in the second half, missing their first five shots before Carson Herbel scored at the 6:09 mark.
Both two teams picked up the pace, and by the end of the third period Sterling had whittled the deficit to 13 points at 49-36. Knoll hit one more three with 2.5 seconds left to give Hillsboro a 52-36 lead at the final break.
The fourth quarter was essentially a standoff. Sterling crept as close as 12 points at 55-43, but Hillsboro stiffened for the final 13-point win.
“The guys really played well together, they moved the ball well and defensively we helped each other out,” coach Darrel Knoll said. “I thought we were really intense, and we rebounded well.”
The Trojans finished with four players scoring in double figures: Werth and Knoll with 15 each, Ratzlaff with 14 and Herbel with 10.
Sterling edged Hillsboro in shooting, 18-47 to 17-47, but the Trojans dominated the free-throw line, going 23-30 compared to 11-24. A total of 53 fouls were called during the contest.
Coach Knoll praised the contributions of his bench.
“Elliot came off the bench and got into people (on defense),” he said. “We got into pretty serious foul trouble, but Jorge (Hanschu) played great minutes, Brodie (Rathbone) came in and put the ball in the basket. (Caleb) Potucek only had a couple of minutes, but was tremendous in those couple of minutes.
“It was a great team effort on both sides of the floor.”
Coming—Hillsboro will compete next this week at the Moundridge Pre-Season Tournament. The Trojans were scheduled to take on Lyons Tuesday. On Thursday they will tip off against Inman at 5:30 p.m. and complete the week with an 8:30 p.m. start against the home team on Friday.
Look for same-night reports at hillsborofreepress.com.