Trojan boys’ basketball coach Darrell Knoll expected a track meet in Friday night’s season opener against the visiting Sterling Black Bears. Once the Bears get into a groove with the scorers they have, they are quite capable of making it a long night for opponents.
Instead, it was the Trojans’ smothering defense, up-tempo offense, and a barrage of threes barreling out of the gate and that took down Sterling, 66-53.
“It was a great team effort on both sides of the floor,” Knoll said. “It wasn’t just one person doing everything. It was a great first game for us.”
Hillsboro used quick ball movement and balanced scoring to jump out to a 12-point lead with 2:40 left in the first quarter.
Elias Werth and Joe Knoll combined for 30 points with 15 apiece. Darian Ratzlaff and Carson Herbel added 14 and 10, respectively.
Of the 10 Trojans suited up, all but one made it into the scoring column.
The Trojans outscored the Bears 27-18 despite shooting nearly an equal percentage for the game.
Sterling pulled as close as 21-14, but eight straight points from Werth pushed the lead to 15 with 2:48 to go before half.
Hillsboro’s defense held the Bears to a ghastly 22 percent the first half—38 for the game—and scoreless the final 4:30 of the half.
From there on, Werth triggered a 14-0 run which left Sterling in dire straits by halftime, down 35-14.
The Sterling team Knoll had originally expected to see did show up the second half and shot a blistering 82 percent in the third quarter, however, the Trojans still were able to maintain a double-digit lead.
The contest turned into a slugfest in the second half with 53 fouls called in 48 minutes.
Hillsboro kept the Bears away, courtesy the free throw line, sinking 10-for-13 the fourth quarter and 23-of-30 on the night.
The Trojans will be in action this week, competing in the Moundridge pre-season tournament.
For 24 minutes, the Lady Trojans did a respectable job of hanging with Sterling.
Unfortunately, a vicious first quarter and first game butterflies, proved too much for Hillsboro to overcome, falling 43-26.
Hampered by 13 first quarter turnovers, 30 overall, including seven in the first 5:00, Hillsboro was its own worst enemy, helping the Bears to an 11-2 lead.
Mistakes kept the Trojans from getting on track offensively, but their defense kept Sterling close, yielding a modest 31 percent shooting.
Hillsboro fell behind 17-2 before finally settling down midway through the second quarter.
Sterling went the final five minutes of the first half without a field goal and Paige Proffitt fueled a 9-0 run that had the Trojans back in the game by half, down just 17-11.
“We did some good things at times,” Trojan coach Nathan Hiebert said. “When we had positive runs, it was because we played defense, made them take tough shots and we rebounded.
“Offensively, we were strong with it. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have enough of that, though. I think we were scared.”
Abby Sechrist scored a team-high 10 points, including a pair of threes, one pulling the Trojans to 25-19 with just under 2:30 to go in the third quarter.
Any hopes of staying close were dashed after that with Hillsboro going better than six minutes without a basket and eventually turning the ball over 30 times for the game.
Sienna Kaufman added nine points, but by the time she ended the scoring lapse with about four minutes left in the game, Sterling was firmly in control, 38-19.
The Trojans finished shooting 29 percent both from the floor and outside.
Up next for Hillsboro is the Moundridge pre-season tournament with games Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday against Lyons, Inman, and Moundridge, respectively.