Hillsboro’s Darian Ratzlaff drives between Sterling’s Brady Myers and Lucas Briar for two of his nine points during the first half of Hillsboro’s 80-76 win to begin the season. Don Ratzlaff / Free Press” width=”600″ height=”900″ class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-77036″ />
The Hillsboro boys had to battle tooth and nail during their season opener to claim an 80-76 win against a talented Sterling squad playing on its home court.
Key to the win was a 28-point performance from senior Elias Werth, plus surprising contributions from senior Brodie Rathbone and junior Caleb Rempel.
Rathbone, making his first start at HHS, scored 13 points, including two critical free throws that secured the victory with 10.8 seconds left in the game.
Rempel, meanwhile, was hot from behind the arc, hitting four 3-pointers in the game, including one that he banked off the backboard from the baseline.
Hillsboro got off to a fast start as the game began, and led 19-6 when Werth hit a 3-pointer at the 2:29 mark. However, the Black Bears awoke from hibernation and reeled off a 10-0 run to close the gap to 19-16 as the quarter ended.
The two teams more or less traded scores during the second period. With Hillsboro leading 37-33, Rempel hit his third 3-pointer at the buzzer, giving the Trojans a 40-33 lead at intermission.
The Trojans never trailed in the game, but the Black Bears made the game uncomfortably close. By the end of third quarter Hillsboro was hanging on to the slimmest of leads at 54-53.
Rempel’s fourth 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter gave Hillsboro a 57-53 edge. When Sterling pulled to within one point again at 57-56, Hillsboro launched a 10-4 surge for a 67-60 lead with 3:02 to play. Werth contributed 10 points and Wes Shaw seven down the stretch.
Over the final 2:18, the Trojans preserved the win by hitting 11 of 13 free throws, including Rathbone’s two game-clinchers at the very end.
In addition to Werth’s 28 points, Hillsboro got double-digit scoring from Rathbone and Wes Shaw with 13 points each, plus Rempel’s 12 points. Darian Ratzlaff chipped in nine.
As a team, the Trojans shot 46 percent from the floor (26-56) and from behind the arc (11-24). Sterling, led by Kenan Comley with 27 points, shot 38 percent ( 25-65) from the field.
“They’ve got some really good players,” coach Darrel Knoll said. “Fortunately, (Sterling) missed a few shots, but I thought we battled really hard.
“Our energy to start the game was tremendous,” he added. “We were sharp, got good shots. When we’re doing that, we shot a high percentage. We went through a little stretch where we didn’t execute as well, but I think we were really tired because the speed of the game was pretty fast tonight. We did a really good job of just continuing to play.”
Coming—Hillsboro, which was ranked 10th in Class 2A in a pre-season poll by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association, will compete this week at the Moundridge Pre-Season Tournament.
The Trojans were schedule to play Moundridge on Tuesday, Dec. 5, then will play Lyons at 5:30 p.m. Thursday and then Inman at 5:30 p.m. Friday.