Young, but plenty
of potential for Trojan girls
For five years after his team’s last state tournament appearance in 2014, a .500 season was pretty hard to come by for Hillsboro girls’ basketball coach Nathan Hiebert.
Hiebert would endure three more losing seasons before a ship that could turn the tide on the Trojans’ misfortunes came in with arrival of the class of 2021.
It took two more losing seasons before .500 finally became reality in the 2019-’20 season, but Hillsboro improved on its previous finish each year.
The quintet of Teegan Werth, Kinsey Kleiner, Jessica Saunders, Dani Klein, and Tuesday Weisbeck hit full stride in their last call, helping Hiebert to his best finish since 2014 at 19-4 overall and 8-1 in the brutal Central Kansas League.
A dream season came crashing down one game short of reaching the Class 2A state tournament, with the Moundridge Wildcats snatching the ticket in a sub-state finale.
Graduation wiped out his entire starting five — the class that got Hillsboro girls basketball back on the map — but you’re not likely to find Hiebert crying about it as he enters his 15th season.
That’s because while the Trojans were enjoying a phenomenal season, he was able to get underclassmen some experience and build for the future.
The Trojans dealt with the same thing in the fall with volleyball, and all they did was finish second in the state, falling to Smith Center in the title match.
Lots of Hillsboro’s volleyball success came from the sophomore duo of Zaylee Werth and Savannah Shahan. The two figure to give the Trojans a formidable force on the hardwood, too.
“We’ve got lots of potential; we’ve had some good days so far,” Hiebert said. “We lost our starting five, but we bring back five players who all gave us quality minutes last year.
“If we can capitalize on our length and athleticism, we will have a great chance every night.”
At 6 feet tall, Zaylee’s taller than her former all-state standout sister, Teegan, but she can run the floor and play inside if she needs to, despite figuring to be mainly in the backcourt.
It’s safe to say Zaylee will improve on her seven points a game of a year ago, along with four rebounds, three steals, and three assists — Hiebert’s returning leader in all areas.
Shahan should provide Hiebert a one-two punch with Zaylee.
The 5-10 Shahan is versatile, and like her sophomore teammate, she can finish inside and step out and be a threat from the perimeter.
A senior trio of Emersyn Funk, Reese Hefley, and Sammie Saunders have plenty of experience, but how well they can adjust to becoming starters will have an impact on how far Hillsboro can go this season.
Funk’s likely to join Shahan in the frontcourt with Hefley and Saunders rounding out the backcourt.
The CKL may be as wide open as it’s been in quite some time with graduation taking its toll on league stalwarts Halstead, Nickerson, and Hesston.
Former Halstead star Karena Gerber is doubtful to be missed by the Trojans, but Nickerson, Smoky Valley, and Hesston still have enough to make the league exciting like usual.
The Trojans’ schedule will be a stiff one again, opening with the defending Class 2A state champion Sterling Black Bears and Moundridge to start the season in a Moundridge preseason tournament.