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Loss to Halstead closes season for Trojans

First losing record for coach in 21 years

Being able to say they pushed the fifth-ranked Halstead Dragons to the limit in early January should have been a big boost of confidence for the Hillsboro High School Trojans.

The Dragons were “breathing fire,” shooting a scorching 62 percent from the floor and eliminating Hillsboro, 66-38, in the substate competition.

A frustrating season ended with an abnormal 2-19 finish — the first losing season Coach Darrel Knoll has endured in 21 years.

Halstead opened the game with a 7-0 run before Nathan Vogel buried a 3-pointer nearly 3 minutes into the game.

Vogel closed out his career, proving to be the Trojans’ biggest weapon Monday, scoring a team-high 15 points.

From the moment Chris Santoya scored Halstead’s first basket, Hillsboro was battling an uphill climb, but managed to stay within an arm’s length of the Dragons the entire first half.

Santoya dropped 17 points on the Trojans, but it was Cody Ratcliffe’s game-high 21 points that did the most damage.

Without a player on its roster taller than 6-foot-1, Halstead had often been overmatched in size — even by the Trojans.

But what the Dragons lacked in size they more than made up for with speedy, aggressive defense.

The Trojans would be one team to vouch for that, giving Halstead a 29-point handicap from 21 turnovers — a slew of them coming on transition baskets — while also allowing them hold Hillsboro to 39 percent shooting.

Halstead pushed its lead to 15-5 with about 3 minutes to go in the first frame before back-to-back baskets from Mason McCarty and a shot from Vogel pulled Hillsboro to 17-11 to start the second quarter.

McCarty ended the night with 4 points.

Jarod Hamm got the Trojans as close as 17-15 for the night nearly 1:30 into the second quarter, but the Dragons went into the break leading 29-23, shooting 10-for-21.

As it has happened so many times throughout the season, the bottom dropped out on Hillsboro the third quarter. The Trojans fell behind by double-digits barely 1:30 into the second half.

The Dragons’ defense smothered the Trojans, creating easy baskets, which helped stretch their lead to 46-28, not to mention keeping Hillsboro from ever cutting the deficit to single digits again.

Already threatening to blow the lid off the game and shooting 13-of-16 the second half, Halstead’s 15-5 run put the finishing touches on the Trojans’ season.

Halstead widened the gap to more than 20 points in the waning 5:43 of the game and Knoll emptied his bench late in the fourth quarter, allowing seniors Matt Richert and Devin Dick time on the court.

Also wrapping up his high school basketball career was Daniel Dick.

Last modified March 4, 2010

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