The Trojans built a 13-4 lead in the first 4:13 of the game with five players contributing points, then fell into a temporary funk, combining 0-for-4 shooting with five turnovers to enable the Panthers to pull within 13-12 as the quarter ended.
Despite a 10-point contribution from senior Austin Cross, the two teams played to a near standoff in the second period. The halftime score was 34-28 after Hills?boro scored five unanswered points in the final minute of the quarter.
?I thought we did a really nice job when they made runs on us of not putting our heads down and letting the run continue,? coach Darrel Knoll said. ?After a timeout, we made the adjustments and we kept playing to win. When we made a mistake, nobody seemed to get upset with themselves or get down too much.?
The Trojans took charge in the third period when sophomore Elias Werth hit two three-pointers and junior Braden Vogt added a third three in the first 1:22 to take a 43-30 lead. By the end of the period, Hillsboro had drained six three-pointers, expanding its lead to 57-44.
The fourth quarter turned into a free-throw shooting contest down the stretch. Hillsboro canned nine of 10 attempts in the final 2:07 to keep the Panthers at bay. In a foul-prone game, Hillsboro made 17 of 23 free throws while Nickerson made 20 of 28.
?I thought the overall tenacity on the floor, both our offense and defense, was really good tonight,? Knoll said. ?Down the stretch we did a nice job on the boards. They were hitting the boards hard and I thought we did a really good job of contesting shots and then battling for the boards.?
Werth led Hillsboro with 22 points, including five three-point baskets. Cross was right behind with a career-best 20 points. Vogt finished in double figures with 11.
?I thought he handled himself really well, both offensively and defensively,? Knolls said of his 6-foot-6 post. ?I thought he played the best game I?ve seen him play.
?He and Elias were really difference-makers tonight,? he added. ?Elias shot free throws well, hit those threes, and played with a lot of pizzazz. The two of them made it really difficult on the other team?and then that opened it up for some of our other guys to make plays as well.?
Hillsboro made 23 of 48 shots from the floor (48 percent), including 10 of 22 shots from behind the arc. Nickerson managed 34 percent accuracy from the floor (20-59) and made only two of 16 shots from three-point range.
Coming?Hillsboro will be competing this week in the Moundridge Presea?son Tournament. The Trojans are scheduled to play Inman at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Mound?ridge at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Lyons at 5:30 p.m. Friday.