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'Mystery season' stalks Hillsboro basketball

With most of last year’s starters graduated, coach grooms untested players

Through 31 years at the helm for the Hillsboro High School boys basketball team, there’s not much coach Darrel Knoll hasn’t seen. 

With 524 wins, there’s been plenty of good, but plenty of tough times, too. 

  Some seasons have turned out with the Trojans fulfilling their expectations, while others have started with Knoll uncertain what to expect. 

For the last four years, Knoll had the luxury of returning experience, and it paid dividends with a trip to the Class 2A state tournament, at least 16 wins on the year, and coming within an eyelash of returning to state. 

As Knoll begins his 32nd year, 2019-2020 could be a mystery season with graduation nearly cleaning his cupboard out with four-fifths of last year’s starters gone. 

It’s not entirely empty, though, with the Potucek brothers, senior Caleb, and sophomore Matthew, back from last year’s 16-7 team. 

The brothers are a good place to start as they’re equipped with the athleticism to be a force both on offense as well as defense. 

Nothing’s for sure, though, with Knoll taking applications for four spots. 

While Knoll has the depth, the majority of it has seen limited use at the varsity level, leaving them unproven and untested.

With what Hillsboro has had in the past, Knoll hasn’t had to count on his bench play as he may have to this season.  

“Since we only return two players who had significant minutes the second half of the season, we will be a little inexperienced, however, we have several talented players who will be competing for those spots,” Knoll said. 

The Trojans have good quickness with the Potuceks, and senior Hunter Hein, who’ll likely fit in at off-guard with Matthew on the wing, and Caleb at point.

Freshman Breckyn Ratzlaff may vie for time also and is the son of former Hillsboro great and current Tabor men’s basketball coach, Micah. 

The junior tandem of Carsen Linnens and Cole Kaufman have the length, with both standing 6-3, to fill in the inside.

Hillsboro would’ve had another post player in 6-5 sophomore Grayson Ratzlaff, who logged varsity minutes a year ago, but health issues are likely to keep him out of action this year.

“We will have good quickness and some length, so we should be a solid defensive team again,” Knoll said. “I anticipate we will compete hard and have good team chemistry. I do expect us to be competitive again this year.” 

The Central Kansas League wasn’t as challenging as the Trojans’ non-conference schedule was, posting a 7-2 finish against league foes.

One of those two setbacks came against what could be the league’s best this year in an overtime heartbreaker on a last second shot, the Larned Indians.

Last modified Nov. 28, 2019

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