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Maturing in full swing for Trojan girls hoops

Staff writer

One year ago, hopes were high of what the incoming freshman class could do for a Trojan girls’ basketball team that had fallen on hard times.

The class made an impact, managing four more wins than the year before, but Trojan coach Nathan Hiebert’s ship never really made it out of harbor.

Hillsboro endured choppy seas, finishing 8-12 overall and 2-7 in a minefield of the CKL, getting a first-round exit by sub-state finalist Berean.

The season got off to a quick start with the Trojans opening the year winning four of their first five before hitting rough waters.

Two consecutive wins were the most Hillsboro could muster, ending the year on a six-game slide.

With Eva Franz the Trojans’ lone upperclassman, the time is now for last year’s freshmen class to take charge.

“We still have a very young team this year,” Hiebert said. “Thankfully, many of the underclassmen saw some playing time last year and have gained experience.

“We will need to play well together and girls will need to step into bigger roles. As a team, we will have to grow quickly to gain experience in order to be successful.”

Outside of some heavy hitters on the schedule, the Trojans were often their own worst enemy with poor ball handling causing many games to short circuit.

Should that continue this year, Hiebert and the Trojans can expect the same old tune to keep playing.

The good news is Hillsboro didn’t lose much that can’t be replaced besides some leadership, and they’re much better now than they were as greenhorns.

“I’ve been pleased with our athleticism and movement so far,” Hiebert said. “Another year of experience for the freshmen has helped, they’ve shown a level of improvement from this time last year.

“We are able to cover more things and get into some new concepts.”

Teegan Werth returns as the lone starter who gained any league recognition a year ago as honorable mention.

Averaging nearly 10 points a game, two thefts, and four rebounds as a freshman, Werth’s the lone returning starter.

Werth figures to bolster what should be the strongpoint of the Trojans’ game in the backcourt, either at off-guard or swing-forward.

Fellow sophomore Kinsey Kleiner logged valuable minutes as a reserve a year ago, averaging four points a game.

One of the Trojans’ quicker defenders, better ball handler and shooter, Kleiner can light it up from outside when she’s on while disrupting opponents on defense.

Franz, along with transfer Mallory Ediger, and sophomore Dani Klein will push for time in what should be a four-out-one motion offense for Hiebert.

Size again will not be in Hillsboro’s favor with sophomores Jessica Saunders and Tuesday Weisbeck the only two players over 5-10 for inside.

The 5-9 Addie Berens should help provide some depth to the frontcourt, but how well the post can handle older opponents’ physicality remains to be seen.

“If we handle it well, we will be able to compete,” Hiebert said. “But if we struggle to match the physicality and speed of our best opponents, we will struggle.”

That perhaps leaves the Trojans’ biggest question mark in the post in terms of depth, production, as well as a presence inside.

Scoring and shooting was another sore spot a year ago with Hillsboro surrendering 44 points a game while averaging 38, getting outscored on the year 884-762.

On numerous occasions, quarters went past with Hillsboro unable to score, instrumental in 60 points being a season-high one time.

That, too, must improve for the Trojans to be any better than a year ago.

Expect Hiebert to pressure opponents to create more opportunities for transition baskets while trying to push the tempo on offense.

The CKL once again figures to be formidable with perennial power Hesston, Haven, and Nickerson projected as top teams.

Hillsboro’s nonconference schedule is likely to be a stiff one, too, with Sterling and possibly Riley County and Clay Center expected to be challenging.

Last modified Nov. 29, 2018

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