They looked tall, they played tall, and the Hillsboro Trojans stood tall Tuesday, defeating Marion 54-30 in Marion.
The Trojans came into the game with what has been rare for them — a height advantage. Several times Hillsboro had four players on the court taller than the tallest Marion player.
“We can put a pretty tall group out there with Callie Linnens, Abbie Sechrist, Mesa Merrill, Rebecca Kaufman, and that bothers some teams,” coach Nathan Hiebert said.
Hillsboro broke the game open in the second quarter by using that height aggressively on both ends of the floor.
Defensively, the Trojans used a swarming, trapping zone that forced the Warriors to take low percentage shots and created turnovers. The defense was so effective that Marion didn’t score from the field, collecting its 3 points for the quarter from the foul line.
“Our defensive intensity was much better. Even though we played zone, we moved well,” Hiebert said. “The last six or seven games we’ve been averaging almost over 20 turnovers, forcing them, and that’s a positive thing. Tonight they actually resulted in easier shot opportunities on the other end. We had some fast break opportunities, and it allowed us to get into our offense with a bit better flow.”
Keyed by the defense, Hillsboro turned in one of its best offensive quarters of the season in the second. Alex Ratzlaff hit a turnaround jumper in the lane and nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key that put the Trojans ahead 20-11.
Marion broke the scoring streak with a pair of free throws with 2 minutes, 28 seconds left in the half, making the score 25-13.
The Trojans responded with a crushing 9-0 run to end the half, including 3-pointers from Mesa Merrell and Rebecca Kaufman. Merrell hit a twisting shot in the lane to give the Trojans a commanding 34-13 lead.
Hiebert said he knew from reviewing tapes of prior Marion games that the Trojans needed to keep up the intensity in the second half.
“Marion’s had some games that they’ve been down, but they fight pretty well — they have some girls that are really scrappy,” Hiebert said. “Coach (Kelly) Robson does a good job of having those girls attack the basket. I thought our girls were ready to go and a little more attentive in that third quarter.”
Hillsboro picked up in the second half right where it left off, expanding its lead to as many as 31 points. Marion closed the gap against Trojans reserves as the clock ran in the fourth quarter, but Hillsboro retained a 24-point edge at the end, 54-30.
“Our girls did a great job of having some ball movement in our offense,” Hiebert said. “We moved the ball side to side and got easy looks inside from our posts. Most of our threes tonight were inside out. We took high percentage shots from outside and we shot 40 percent from three tonight, which is where we want to be.”
The Trojans play again Tuesday at Nickerson.