Hillsboro outlasts Lady Warriors, 55-47
All the Lady Trojan basketball team needed was one win Feb. 16 to make the regular-season finale in Hillsboro with the second-ranked Wichita Collegiate Lady Spartans for the MCAA title but the Marion Lady Warriors still had a say-so Thursday night where a win over Hillsboro would mean the Trojans would have to share the MCAA title with the Spartans.
For three quarters, the Warriors appeared poised to throw a wrench in the Trojans’ plans.
But a 26-17 fourth quarter proved to be the difference as Hillsboro hung on for a 55-47 win and kept its league title hopes alive.
Hillsboro ups its mark to 10-0 in the MCAA and 15-4 overall, heading into the rematch Tuesday.
“We had some girls that really frustrated them (Marion) with a lot of stuff defensively,” Trojan Coach Nathan Hiebert said. “We had some breakdowns, but we only gave them a few easy shots and the rest of them, they had to work for.
“Defensively, that’s where it started.”
In perhaps as intense a battle as the Trojans have had all year, there wasn’t much for offense from either team the first quarter with both teams shooting less than 32 percent from the field in the first half.
The Trojans were in front, 8-3, after the first quarter, but they missed eight out of their first 12 shots while turning the ball over seven times.
Hillsboro’s defensive pressure gave the Warriors fits, too, yielding just 1-for-9 the first quarter and forcing them to commit nine turnovers.
It was the aggressive Warriors who, despite missing one of their “Big Three” in Kayley Heerey because of a sprained ankle, came to life the second quarter.
Candace Weinbrenner put Hillsboro in front, 12-8, 2 minutes, 34 seconds into the second quarter; but Julia Zeiner’s pair of free throws got the Warriors over the hill, 14-13, with 2:41 left before halftime.
Zeiner dropped a game-high 19 points on Hillsboro, including 10 the first half behind 7-for-16 shooting.
Marion’s other standout, Lindsay Hett, chipped in 14 points, all in the second half.
A 3 from Zeiner with 13 seconds left sent the Warriors into intermission with a 19-15 lead.
Marion extended its lead to 6 on a basket by Zeiner before a 6-0 run, capped by Allie Faul’s triple, knotted the game up at 21-21.
Faul lit up the Warriors for 14 points while Dakota Kaufman had a double-double with a team-high of 18 points and game-high 12 rebounds, despite being hampered with foul trouble.
The Trojans could only tie the game two more times until Faul regained the lead with 46 seconds left in the third quarter, 29-28.
Whitney Gordon, who pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds, made it a 30-29 game to start the fourth quarter, draining two free throws.
For the second week in a row, the Trojans began inching away in the fourth quarter.
Kaufman fueled a 7-2 surge in the opening minutes, which pushed Hillsboro’s lead to 36-32 before Faul canned her second 3 to make it 39-34 with just under 5:30 left.
The Trojans put the game away at the free-throw line in the final 4:52 with Tena Loewen draining 7-for-8 to help Hillsboro shoot a near flawless 13-of-14.
Faul supplied the other 6 points on 6-for-6 as the Trojans were 18-for-23 at the line the second half — 19-of-29 on the night.
Faul’s pair of free throws with 18 seconds left made it a three-possession game for the Warriors.
“That’s where we won the game. We stepped up and hit free throws,” Hiebert said. “When you have that happening, the other team is going to have a hard time beating you. I was very proud of the girls stepping up and hitting those free throws.”
Finding a game more evenly matched in stats would be a chore with Hillsboro shooting 41 percent and Marion 36.
The Trojans outrebounded Marion, 32-31, with the Warriors getting a 9-7 edge offensively.
Even turnovers were close with Hillsboro narrowly winning the battle, 16-17.
Marion also edged Hillsboro in assists, 12-11, despite Franny Gottsch’s game-high of five.
With the Trojans wrapping up the regular season Tuesday, they’ll return to action next week in the first round of the Sterling sub-state at a site and against an opponent yet to be determined.