With the Hillsboro High School girls’ basketball team up 23 late in the third quarter on Friday, Tena Loewen dived into the legs of a Lyons defender chasing a loose ball.
To the outside observer, this play seems unnecessarily rash; a player sacrificing her body when the game is well in hand. To Loewen, that’s the way she is supposed to play. If she’s in the game, she’s going all out.
“It’s training them in habits,” head coach Nathan Hiebert said. “You can’t start picking and choosing to do your best.”
The play was infectious. About a quarter later, backup power forward Christina Morris dived for a loose ball at half court with the Trojans up by 28 points.
In lopsided wins over Inman on Thursday, 55-21, and Lyons on Friday, 51-28, to win the Moundridge Preseason Tournament, every Hillsboro player did her job well.
The emphasis against Inman was attacking the Teutons 2-3 zone defense, both by moving without the ball for back door and cuts through the lane, and by driving into the teeth of the defense to either draw multiple defenders or finish in the paint. Loewen had 18 points against Inman, all in the first half and all on 2-point baskets coming within 15 feet of the hoop. Addie Lackey, also active in driving to the basket, had 8 points in the first half, 12 for the game, all on 2-point buckets.
The Trojans led 21-2 with 2 minutes, 15 seconds left before halftime and held a 23-4 advantage with the sound of the halftime buzzer. Hillsboro shot 56 percent from the field in the opening half. The Trojans weren’t slouches on defense either — Hillsboro had 9 steals, Lackey with 4, and forced 18 Inman turnovers.
The Trojans did not shoot nearly as well against Lyons but made up for it with offensive rebounding. The Trojans grabbed 15 offensive rebounds in the game, many resulting in quick putbacks, and built a 26-8 lead at half.
Point guard Danae Bina had 6 offensive rebounds by herself; she led the team in rebounds with 8 total.
“First, you have to have the mind set to go after balls. She’s not scared of bigger girls,” Loewen said. “It’s fun to watch her.”
Bina was also the Trojans’ leading scorer with 17 points. She added 2 assists, a steal, and a block.
While Bina’s job in the Moundridge preseason tournament was more about versatility, Erin Winter provided consistency at center. The junior has started at center every game for Hillsboro. She said she did not care about starting, that she would play her best in any role. That humble demeanor is evident in her game.
There is nothing flashy about the way Winter plays. She plays physical post defense, usually between her opponent and the basket, without committing unnecessary fouls. She has the ability to rebound but is also willing to take her player out of the play by boxing out and let a teammate clean up the glass.
On offense, Winter is going to live on layups, assisted by Loewen and Lackey who will inevitably draw a defense’s attention, and 15-foot elbow jumpers. Winter hit three of the latter against Inman for 6 points. Hiebert noticed that opponents were purposefully leaving Winter open. If she keeps knocking down midrange jumpers, teams will no longer be able to ignore her, and space around the hoop will open for Loewen and Lackey to operate. Winter does not really care if the elbow shot becomes her signature play; right now it’s what is being asked of her.
Hiebert experimented with a variety of lineups during the Moundridge tournament. During a stretch in the second quarter against Lyons, he had Bina, Maci Schlehuber, and Maddi Duerksen all playing at the same time for a smaller lineup. Loewen can play the five position and Hiebert can use a hyper-athletic lineup with Alex Ratzlaff and Lackey on the wings and Schlehuber and Bina at the guard spots. Winter was even involved with an effective big lineup when she was teamed with Loewen, Ratzlaff, and Lackey with Bina as the only guard.
The Hillsboro coach also understands that the Trojans will need to win some games that grind to a half-court halt using a traditionally-sized lineup. Winter gives him that ability. By doing her job, she allows her teammates to fulfill their assignments that much easier.