The Hillsboro boys’ basketball team chipped away at Hesston’s 41-31 lead meticulously in the fourth quarter before finally getting a chance to win the game with a final shot down 44-43 with 23.1 seconds left in the game.
As with any comeback, the effort began on defense. On three consecutive possessions to start the fourth quarter, the Trojans forced a turnover, got a steal, and forced a tie-up. A jumper and two free throws by Harry Faber brought the score to 41-35 with 6 minutes, 45 seconds left in the game.
The Trojans employed a half-court trap to force turnovers and got another out of a timeout. Hesston forward Ryan Schadler hit two free throws but Josh Wiebe hit a 12-foot hook shot after an offensive rebound. At 43-37, the Trojans forced a turnover and then drove into the teeth of the Hesston defense. Evan Ollenburger drew a foul from guard Tyler McCartney for his effort.
“Evan picked up the intensity level,” head coach Darrel Knoll said.
Hesston center Wyatt McKinney did not agree with the call. He slammed the ball down to the hardwood, and drew a technical foul. Hillsboro point guard Brett Weinbrenner hit both free throws, 43-39. The teams traded five empty possessions before Shaq Thiessen broke the stalemate with a layup after a drive along the right side of the paint. It was Thiessen’s only basket of the night after starting the game on the bench.
Two empty possessions later, Chance Gehrer converted one-of-two attempts at the free-throw line. Weinbrenner answered with a baseline floater, freed by a Jesse Brown screen at the top of the key.
Brown then made the play of the game for Hillsboro. He jumped the Hesston sideline inbounds pass, tipped the ball up in the air into Swather territory before pulling it down and driving for a layup. His layup attempt was blocked by McKinney, one of four blocks for the Hesston center in the game, but the play set up the final shot for the Trojans.
“Jesse just got after it,” head coach Darrel Knoll said. “It was an unbelievable, great play.”
Weinbrenner was called to take the final shot. He had eight points in the second half, 10 total, and two assists. He tried to use two separate ball screens to get free on the final possession, but solid Hesston defense forced him to use up most of the clock to get open.
With the seconds clicking down, Weinbrenner drove to the free-throw line and his resulting jump shot clanked off the right side of the rim. Despite the effort of Brown fighting for the rebound, the ball landed in the hands of Hesston player and the buzzer announced a Swather victory.
The game looked bleak for Hillsboro when Hesston took a 14-5 lead at the end of the first quarter. Schadler scored a fluky layup with 1.3 seconds left in the quarter after McCartney flipped him a pass while diving after the ball.
The Trojans did not give up. Hillsboro adjusted its defense in the second half. Knoll said the team was surrendering too many open layups on cuts crossing the lane. Schadler especially benefited from these plays, scoring 19 points in the game to lead all scorers. Hillsboro also shored up the glass. McKinney had five offensive rebounds in the game, but most of those boards came in the first half.
Forward Harry Faber kept the Trojans in the game on offense through a seesaw the first three quarters — Hillsboro would close within six points and then Hesston would extend the lead to 10. Faber scored 17 points in the game, including three 3-pointers.