Hillsboro boys take second at Moundridge
Boys notch 2-1 finish in tournament, girls go 0-3
The Moundridge Preseason Tournament traditionally provides the Trojan basketball teams a stiff challenge to open the season, and this year’s was no different.
What it did find was the girls struggling and the boys improving after opening the year 0-2.
The boys posted a 2-1 finish after dropping the first game 49-38 to second-ranked Inman, surviving an overtime thriller against the hosting Wildcats 50-49, and routing Lyons in Friday’s finale, 65-51.
The two consecutive wins squared the boys at 2-2 on the season.
Since opening the year blowing out Belle Plaine at home, the girls have struggled to get back on track, dropping to 1-3 this year.
After getting manhandled in Tuesday’s opener, 45-9, by seventh-ranked Inman, up has been the only direction the girls can go.
The Trojans did for the most part, but it didn’t add to wins, dropping a 43-42 heartbreaker Thursday to Moundridge and closing out the tournament Friday with a discouraging 38-34 loss to Lyons.
The girls’ team raised their record to 2-3 with a dominant 42-27 win over Marion. The boys also sit at 2-3 after a heartbreaking 54-52 loss.
Hillsboro has an empty schedule this week before closing out the season Dec. 18 hosting Southeast of Saline.
For one half, victory was within the Trojans’ reach Friday against the Lions.
Games are two halves, though, and Hillsboro did everything it needed to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory the second half.
Not often is it possible to win with more turnovers than field goals, either, or shooting 1-for-14 from three and 27 percent from the field.
Combine that with a slew of empty possessions the second half, Lyons finally ran down Hillsboro the final 5:00 and hung on with a 15-6 fourth quarter.
“Our goals did some great things, but then we would have way too many empty possessions, and give them easy buckets from mental mistakes, even though I thought our girls competed well and continued to lead,” Trojan coach Nathan Hiebert said.
“In the fourth quarter we once again had way too many mental mistakes, lacked patience, and couldn’t execute to the level that was needed to win.”
Kinsey Kleiner scored a team-high 12 points, burying a basket with just under 5:00 left in the first half to stretch Hillsboro’s lead as far as 18-5.
The game began a slow downward spiral for the Trojans after that, and Lyons used a 9-4 run to cut the lead to 22-16 by halftime.
Kristina Head stung the Trojans for a game-high 17 points, barely beating the first-half buzzer for the 6-point margin.
Despite the nine third-quarter turnovers, the Trojans were still above water heading into the final stretch by two possessions, 28-22.
After Kleiner’s basket with 5:51 left in the game pushed Hillsboro’s lead to 32-28, turnovers and a 3:38 scoring lapse put the Lions in the driver’s seat.
Outside Kleiner, the Trojans struggled to find scoring the fourth quarter, going the final 2:22 scoreless.
Darci Stover put the game on ice with 14 seconds left, sinking one-of-two free throws for a two-possession lead.
Making the loss harder to digest yet was the Trojans holding Lyons to a bitter 23 percent shooting and forcing as many turnovers.
Games have a tendency of quickly coming apart on the Lions anytime they play the Trojans.
That wasn’t the case this time with a near 4:00-scoring lapse keeping Lyons hot on Hillsboro’s tail the first quarter.
Only until Wes Shaw got going, though, and the hulking senior used his muscle to ravage the Lions inside for a game-high 17 points, with 10 off offensive rebounds.
Shaw was a monster on the boards, pulling down a game-high 14 rebounds for a double-double with eight offensively as Hillsboro blasted the Lions on the glass, 46-24.
“I thought we played really well once we started moving the ball better,” Trojan coach Darrel Knoll said. “We got pretty stagnant early on and took some tough shots that didn’t help us out.
“Once we started pushing the ball and spread the floor, we did a much better job getting good shots working inside out or back inside. We definitely got better. We’re not there yet but we’re improving.”
Key threes from Joe Knoll and Darian Ratzlaff, along with help from Matthew Potucek off the bench, helped Hillsboro break the game open by halftime, 39-24, behind a blistering 11-for-20 from the floor.
Knoll and Ratzlaff combined for 23 points with 12 and 11 each to finish as the only other Trojans in double figures.
The Lions never jeopardized the lead despite clawing their way back into the contest after being down as many as 53-30 the third quarter.
Lyons caught fire the fourth quarter, shooting 58 percent from the floor and outscoring the Trojans 18-12, but Hillsboro’s lead was still too much to eclipse.