Hillsboro boys stumble at Sterling, 48-41
Over the years, the Hillsboro High School boys basketball team has developed a reputation for fundamentals and finesse instead of physical play.
In 23 years, Hillsboro has had its share of players who can be physical, but coach Darrel Knoll’s teams have always thrived on playing smooth basketball.
On Friday night in Sterling against an undefeated, bigger, and stronger Black Bear team, the Trojans’ smaller size and inability to establish offensive rhythm were pivotal in their defeat, 48-41.
The Trojans’ second consecutive loss drops them to 2-3 while Sterling is 6-0.
“I thought we toughened up but we need to find an offensive rhythm,” Knoll said. “We’re standing too much, especially after an initial pass or two; that’s the big thing. We did get some shots we missed down the stretch that I’m confident we’ll make as we get into the season.”
As a team better suited for a back-alley brawl than basketball, Sterling drove to the basket, forcing Trojan defenders to foul. The Black Bears proceeded to shoot 19-for-28 at the free-throw line.
Mix that with careless, unforced turnovers, and the Trojans’ inability to draw fouls, and there are the ingredients for an uphill climb, which Hillsboro faced from the get-go.
The Trojans got to the line just five times.
Bulky Black Bear post Austin Maxwell scored a game-high 18 points, pushing Sterling to a 4-0 lead before Ben Bebermeyer scored the first basket of the game for Hillsboro.
Bebermeyer scored a team-high 14 points, but the Trojans still struggled, going the final 4 minutes, 14 seconds of the first quarter without a basket.
Despite hitting an improved 5-for-13 in the second quarter after going 2-of-6 earlier, Hillsboro fell behind as many as 6 before freshman Evan Ollenburger cut the margin to 22-18 right before the half.
The Trojans stayed hot on the Black Bears’ tail in the third quarter with Bebermeyer draining a 3-pointer to get back within 2 points, 30-28, nearly three minutes into the second half.
But the Hillsboro players became careless, turning over the ball three times and making just one of their next five shots during a near four-minute scoring lapse.
Bebermeyer ended the drought, scoring on a 3-point play, only Sterling made 4-for-6 at the line in the waning 3:44 of the third quarter to go up 36-31.
Shooting woes and mistakes continued for the Trojans, as they missed their first six shots to start the fourth quarter, falling behind, 41-31.
Hillsboro struggled to find the basket, making 16-of-46 on the night, while yielding 42 percent to the Black Bears.
Brett Weinbrenner added 10 points, sinking a free throw to get Hillsboro to within single digits at the line with 3:41 remaining, 41-32.
The Black Bears only managed one field goal in the fourth quarter, but their 10-of-14 from the line kept the Trojans from getting closer than 3.
A combined 4 points from Maxwell and Seth Humphreys put away the game for Sterling with 12 seconds to go, pushing the lead to the final margin.
“I thought the biggest stretch was in the third quarter when we turned it over like six times in a row, not really forced turnovers,” Knoll said. “We had a stretch in the first quarter where we turned it over three times in a row.
“You can’t go nine possessions without even getting off a shot and expect to win too many ball games. We’ve got to clean that up.”
The Trojans will open the new year Jan. 4 at Halstead.