Swathers cut down Trojans
If it were up to the Trojans basketball teams’ seniors, odds are the Hesston Swathers wouldn’t have been their top choice to play their final home games against.
Nearly a month after the first meetings in the Trojans Classic, which resulted in a pair of setbacks for both Hillsboro teams, the visiting Swathers’ riddle remained unsolvable Friday.
Despite a fast start, the boys didn’t have enough down the stretch to avenge a 53-41 loss last month, with the top-ranked Swathers prevailing 51-44.
In girls’ action, the Lady Trojans’ luck hadn’t changed at all, with the eighth-ranked Swathers coasting to a 57-22 win.
Hillsboro closed out the regular season Tuesday against Smoky Valley in Lindsborg before postseason play begins Feb. 27.
For the second week in a row, against one of the three best teams to grace their schedule, the Lady Trojans showed no signs of being intimidated by an imposing team like Hesston.
Hillsboro actually had a 6-5 lead on the Swathers nearly 5 minutes into the contest, courtesy of a frustrating defense.
Behind 43 percent shooting and all 8 first-quarter points from Mesa Merrell, the Trojans were bearing down on Hesston heading into the second frame, trailing 15-8.
“I think the girls realized after last week if we don’t, it’s going to be absolutely miserable,” Trojans coach Nathan Hiebert said. “We flustered them a bit and changed defenses on them and kept them off balance.”
It didn’t take long for misery to strike after Celbi Richardson’s trey nearly 40 seconds into the second quarter made it an 18-8 game.
Hesston’s speed, athleticism, and size finally got the best of Hillsboro with the Swathers heating up for 55 percent off inside play from Kailey Jo Ince and Richardson.
The Swather defense put the game out of reach the second quarter, yielding a frigid 1-for-6 from the floor while forcing 33 turnovers, which led to 27 Hesston points.
Merrell did all she could to keep Hillsboro in the game, posting a career-game high 17 points, including a quartet of 3-pointers, but a combined 5 points was all the support she could get.
The Trojans’ sixth straight loss drops them to 4-15 on the year and winless in league action at 0-9.
With a victory, Hillsboro would’ve handed the Swathers their first loss in league play and secured second place in the league.
Hillsboro didn’t wait long before jumping on the Swathers, using a 10-0 run sparked by Darian Ratzlaff’s 3-ball to race to an 11-2 lead just over 5 minutes into the game.
Hesston’s offense stayed in low gear the first half, falling behind 16-10 after one quarter, while shooting a modest 25 percent and 27 percent overall.
Cold shooting hit Hillsboro, too, after Carson Herbel drained the first basket of the second quarter to stretch the lead to 18-10.
The Trojans again had their hands full with the Swather tandem of Zachs — Vogt and Esau — who combined for 36 points.
Hesston regained the lead 20-18 on a 10-0 run of its own, but Herbel’s basket with 6 seconds left the teams tied at 20-20 at the half.
Elias Werth added 11 points, and his basket with over 5:00 left in the third made it 26-24 Hillsboro. It was the last one the Trojans could get to fall for more than 3½ minutes.
Hesston used an 8-0 run to take a 32-26 lead, but Hillsboro scored 7 straight to pull ahead 33-32.
After Preston Loewen’s three to start the fourth quarter made for a 36-35 edge, the Trojans never got over the hill again the final 7:41.
“The turnovers cost us,” a frustrated Trojans coach Darrel Knoll said. “The third quarter when we weren’t scoring, we were turning the ball over and that’s where they got their lead.
“Most of those we were just trying to go too fast. If we’d clean that up, maybe we’d have come out in a little better spot tonight. We played hard all night, though.”
Ratzlaff finished with a team-high 16 points, but the Trojans finished shooting a cold 25 percent from 3-point range and 36 percent overall.
The loss leaves Hillsboro alone in third place at 9-3 in the CKL and 14-5 overall.
Smoky Valley girls defeated Hillsboro 55-48. The Trojan boys also lost to Smoky Valley, 70-50.