The Hillsboro boys’ basketball team showed a lot of heart with a win, 57-43, over Lyons.
It was not so much in the game itself. The Trojans did outplay Lyons in the second quarter, amassing five steals in the quarter, but only led by six at halftime because of missed layups and turnovers. They would have only been up three had Brett Weinbrenner missed a corner 3-pointer at the buzzer.
In similar situations this year, the Trojans have allowed opponents to stay in the game and seize the momentum. Ryan McClure knocked down a 3-pointer to force a Hillsboro timeout with 5 minutes, 44 seconds left. Hillsboro responded with a 10-2 run including three 3-pointers, two coming off assists.
Following this surge, forward Josh Wiebe went to the bench and had his ankle taped. He would not return to the game. Wiebe has been an integral cog in Hillsboro’s offense this season. In previous instances when he went to the bench this season, the Trojans have been prone to droughts. Lyons reduced the lead to six points, 38-32 after three quarters.
The Trojans responded with three consecutive layups, two with assists from Shaq Thiessen, and a Weinbrenner 3-pointer for a 9-0 run to give Hillsboro a 47-32 lead with 4:12 remaining in the fourth quarter. Three consecutive 2-for-2 trips to the line by Weinbrenner and a Thiessen layup gave Hillsboro the win.
Hillsboro guard Evan Ollenburger said switching to a 2-3 zone on defense helped stabilize the Trojans’ effort on that end of the floor without Wiebe and lead to offense. Ollenburger and coach Darrel Knoll both credited Hillsboro’s defense with the win. Hillsboro held Lyons to 33 percent shooting. Defending man-to-man most of the game, Thiessen held McClure to two-of-13 from the field.
More than the way the Trojans responded in the game against Lyons, the Trojans responded after a difficult loss on Tuesday, 71-68 to Sterling in overtime, with a high-energy week of practices, determined to not allow that loss define their season.
“We came out on Thursday and had as good an effort as we have had all year,” Knoll said.
That effort showed immediately in the game. On Lyons’ first possession, Ollenburger drew a charge on Lions forward Grady Kirkhart along the baseline. On the subsequent Hillsboro possession, Ollenburger drained a 3-pointer following a Tyler Proffitt tip offensive rebound.
“We came out with a lot more purpose,” Knoll said.
That purpose translated to the offensive end of the floor with sharp ball movement that led to open shots, often 3-pointers. Hillsboro had 15 assists in the game; Ollenburger led the way with four helpers but Harry Faber and Jesse Brown had three assists each.
Weinbrenner scored 20 points, including four-of-seven shooting from beyond the arc. Thiessen was also a benefactor on offense, scoring 12 points on six-of-11 shooting from 2-point range.
“Sharp passes equal high percentage shots,” Knoll said. “It’s stuff we’ve been working on all year.”
Knoll points out this second part because the Trojans have seemed to turn a corner with the quality of play, notably a 58-49 win over Thomas More Prep in the Trojan Classic tournament, only to regress in subsequent games.
“We’ve been working on that corner a while,” Knoll said.
Helping matters for Hillsboro is that Ollenburer seemed to have been playing like his old self. Knoll said Ollenburger has been hesitant to test his right knee after coming back from an injury sustained in January. Ollenburger’s play on Friday was fitting of his normal scrappy style.
The Trojans are now 9-7 on the season. Knoll said if five close loses had gone the other way they could be 14-2. Despite a disappointing start to the season, the Trojans are not giving up.