The whooping and hollering coming from the Hillsboro High School Lady Trojans’ locker room would leave one to think Hillsboro had just won a state championship.
It’s not that time of the year yet, but taking third place Saturday at Hillsboro’s Trojan Classic was a start.
After a year filled with bumps and bruises, the Trojans (6-6) finally got the game they’ve been looking for all season, toppling the Marion Lady Warriors, 50-45.
Playing arguably one of their best games on the season, now the trick is whether the Trojans can keep it going.
Behind shooting a season-high 59 percent from the floor and a season-high 22 points and 13 rebounds from Dakota Kaufman, Hillsboro was able to jump on the Warriors early and never look back.
“We basically talked about two things,” an ecstatic Trojan coach Nathan Hiebert said. “We had to stop transition because that’s where Marion really strives and the second thing was rebounding.
“We struggled with rebounding at times, but if we could break it down by quarters, the first quarter we didn’t give them second chances and we didn’t give them opportunities. That makes a huge difference.”
That was pivotal in Hillsboro jumping out to an 11-0 lead in the first six minutes of the game with the Trojans scoring on fast breaks and Kaufman breaking lose for seven points.
The Warriors were in deep trouble after the first quarter, trailing, 14-4, as Hillsboro hit 6-of-12 from the floor while holding Marion to a modest 30 percent the first half — 34 for the game.
Allie Faul added a season-high 14 points, including a pair of threes, giving the Trojans their largest lead of the first half, 19-7.
Marion got the breaks it needed after that though, with Hillsboro surrendering a 7-0 run with five straight turnovers, to allow the Warriors to climb back in the game, 19-14.
Hillsboro was able to push its lead to, 23-16, at halftime, shooting 59 percent from the field and Kaufman scoring 12 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
The Warriors stayed hot on the Trojans’ trail, again out-scoring Hillsboro, 12-9, in the third quarter to pull to within, 32-28, heading down the final stretch.
The Trojans again pushed their lead back to 12, using a 10-2 run, which made it a 42-30 game with just more than three minutes left in the game.
Marion turned the tide in a span of less than 30 seconds, cashing in on a three from Kayley Heerey and a three-point play from Lindsay Hett to bring the deficit back to two possessions.
Whitney Gordon capped a 13-4 run for the Warriors, closing the gap to 46-43 with a free throw with just less than 30 seconds left in the game.
However, Hillsboro put the game on ice with Candace Weinbrenner and Cassie Kroeker combining to hit 4-of-4 at the free-throw line, making it a two-possession game with 10 seconds left.
“How we started really helped us throughout the game,” Hiebert said. “The rest of the game, we had glimpses of not taking care of the ball and not rebounding, but we also had glimpses of taking care of the ball, getting easy buckets, executing, and taking advantage of what their defense did.
“I was proud of them. At the right time, it seemed like we did some nice things and the right things to get more buckets back and get us back to where we needed to be.”
Hillsboro managed a 2-1 finish at the tournament, its sole loss coming at the expense of eventual runner-up Hesston Thursday, 45-28.
The Trojans get a small break this week before they return to action Tuesday, traveling to Lyons.