It was a matchup between teams that had near-opposite success a year ago. The Trojans made it to state while the Panthers failed to win a game. Even so, coach Nathan Hiebert was concerned about offense after losing two-thirds of his scoring to graduation.
Ratzlaff, one of two returning starters, stepped up big time with a career-high scoring performance that nearly matched the output of the visiting team.
?Alex was great,? Hiebert said. ?She didn?t force things, she rebounded well, she hit a couple from the outside, she took it to the rack. I was pleased with how she played.?
Ratzlaff scored 14 points in the first quarter as the Trojans rolled to a 19-4 lead by the time it ended. By halftime, Hillsboro bumped the margin to 17 points at 33-16.
Hillsboro was never in danger in the second half, and led by as much as 41-18 in the third quarter when freshman Abby Sechrist scored her first high school point on a free throw at the 4:05 mark. By the end of the period, Hillsboro led, 44-25.
Hiebert cleared his bench when the Trojans pushed their margin to 53-30 with 5:02 left in the game.
?I was really pleased with our girls tonight,? Hiebert said. ?Nickerson?s zone really packs it in, so I was worried that we would shoot a lot of quick outside shots.
?Our best runs were because of our defense?we got turnovers, we got easy buckets. I was really pleased with how that went.?
For the game, the defense contributed to 32 Panther turnovers, which led to 22 Trojan points. Nickerson managed only 23 percent shooting from the floor.
Hiebert said his most pleasant surprise of the night was putting up 61 points in the opener.
?When you lose almost 70 percent of your scoring, you kind of wonder who is going to put it in the hole,? he said.
Ratzlaff led the way with 11-of-26 shooting from the floor, including a pair of three pointers, and hit eight of 10 free throws.
But Hiebert got production from several others, including Allison Weber, who scored eight points including two threes. Mesa Merrell chipped in seven and Brook?lyn Wiens add six points with a pair of threes. For the game the Trojans shot 30 percent from the floor.
Hiebert said a convincing win was a confidence builder for his relatively inexperienced team.
?Sometimes if you play someone really challenging, that can put a damper on things for a new team,? he said. ?I was glad for how the schedule worked out this year because I think it gave us a good, positive game before we go to the Mound?ridge tournament.?
Coming?Hillsboro will face some stiff competition this week at the Moundridge Preseason Tournament.
The Trojans begin at 4 p.m. Tuesday against Lyons, a team that finished as the Class 3A state runner-up to Hesston a year ago. The Lions blew out Ells?worth, 58-18, in their Friday opener.
Hillsboro will take the court at 4 p.m. Thursday against Inman (0-1), then will play Moundridge (1-0) at 7 p.m. Friday in the final round-robin game.