One-point loss leaves Hillsboro 1-3 at home
Throughout 21 successful years as the Hillsboro High School boys’ basketball coach, Darrel Knoll has seen his share of players and teams that have had a knack for causing him grief and misery.
Players like Medicine Lodge’s Stan Dohm, Belleville’s Tony Hoops, Riley County’s infamous Nelson brothers, Mike and Jordy, Mitch Fiegels’ Collegiate Spartans, and Ty Rhodes’ Hesston Swathers.
Friday night’s visiting opponent, the Halstead Dragons, have had a pair of brothers that have done the same — Jordan, and Justin Regehr.
The last in line of Regehr’s, Jared, made the most of his chance Friday to cause the Trojans’ and Knoll sorrows as well.
With both Jordan and Justin looking on, Halstead got three offensive rebounds in the closing one-half minute.
Finally, Derek Gant kicked the ball out to Jared, who buried a cold-blooded three-pointer to sink Hillsboro (5-5), 53-52, and finish with a team-high 14 points.
“I felt like we had them blocked out,” a sullen Knoll said. “I thought we had good position. If we’d have gotten that rebound, we’d have found ourselves on the winning side of that.”
The heart-wrenching loss leaves the Trojans 1-3 at home, and while two of the losses have come against top-ranked Collegiate and 4A’s second-ranked Swathers, Hillsboro had chances to beat the Dragons.
So far, Friday’s loss may have been the Trojans’ toughest yet, as they shot a blistering 57 percent from the floor while holding Halstead to 44.
In a one-point game, Hillsboro’s shooting 6-for-10 from the free-throw line in the final 5:36, combined with Halstead’s first half proved to be the backbreaker.
Getting into a decent flow in the game wasn’t easy early on for the Trojans with the Dragons jumping out to a 5-0 lead in the game’s first two minutes.
David Loewen scored a game-high 19 points, getting a stick-back to tie the game at five with 4:30 left in the first quarter, but Hillsboro never led the remainder of the first half.
The Trojans got just six field goal attempts the second quarter, making three, Halstead was able to open up a 25-16 lead on a pair of Chris Santoya free throws, with just less than two minutes in the first half.
Hillsboro trailed at halftime, 27-20, shooting 42 percent from the floor, but was hampered by nine turnovers.
The Trojans finally got on track the second half, making four of their first six shots, erasing what was once a 33-22 Halstead lead to 36-33 with an 11-3 run with just less than four mintues left in the third quarter.
Daniel Jost added 15 points for the Trojans, pulling them to 42-40, with two free throws to complete a 9-for-12 third quarter.
The game turned into a wrestling match the fourth quarter as Hillsboro had its worst quarter shooting, making just 2-of-9.
Loewen gave the Trojans their first lead of the game, 45-44, at the 5:13 mark, draining a pair of free throws.
The lead changed hands three more times over the next four minutes and Hillsboro had to make do with a meager pair of field goals in the closing three minutes.
With Regehr making the eventual winning three, a big miss on the front end of a two-shot free throw would have sent the game into overtime.
Hillsboro couldn’t haul in a rebound when it mattered most, though, there were still 9.2 seconds left when the Trojans got it back.
The Dragons forced Jost into an off-balanced shot and Taylor Hagen’s putback drew nothing but iron to preserve the win.
“One of the biggest things was early in the game. We just came out and did not move on offense for whatever reason,” Knoll said. “Defensively, it seemed like we weren’t as aggressive as we should be and we didn’t play a very good first half.
“The second half, I thought we competed really hard and if we could’ve cleaned up a few little things, we could’ve won that ball game tonight. We did things that should’ve got us in the win column.”
The Trojans’ schedule gets no easier this week, competing in the Trojan Classic in Hillsboro.
Hillsboro opened the tournament Tuesday by defeating 6-1 Wamego, 54-51.
The Trojans will face the undefeated Republic County Buffaloes at 8:15 Friday in the semifinals.