Trojans place high at home tourney
For 26 years, the Holcomb Longhorns haven’t been a favorite opponent for Hillsboro High School basketball teams.
Meeting both Longhorn teams was inevitable Saturday in the final day of the 2018 Trojan Classic.
In boys’ action, a dreadful start against Class 4A II’s second-ranked and defending state champion was too much to overcome, with Holcomb hanging on for a 55-42 win to capture the Classic title.
It was a fatal explosion in the third quarter by the Longhorn girls that was too strong for the Trojans in the third-place game, with Holcomb prevailing 48-35.
The tournament, which was changed around due to frigid temperatures and eligibility issues, concluded with the boys posting a 2-1 finish and the girls going 1-2.
The boys advanced to the final game through pool play, smashing Sunrise Christian in the first game, 81-59 and fighting off Clay Center 54-48 in Friday’s second game.
After a 22-point performance by Teegan Werth in a comfortable 60-41 victory over Sunrise Thursday, the girls were toppled in the semifinals Friday by the fourth-ranked and eventual Classic champion Clay Center, 39-18.
The losses drop the boys to 11-2 on the year and the girls to 7-6.
The teams will get a week off to heal and recover before returning to action Jan. 30 against visiting Council Grove.
Considering the Longhorns demolished 3A’s fourth-ranked Hesston in the semifinals, 71-41, that may have been part of the reason for the Trojans rugged start.
All the shots the Trojans normally make were either missed or disrupted by the Longhorns’ 6-8 inside presence of Kobe Dickson.
That paid off in Holcomb limiting Hillsboro to a mere 2- for-28 shooting and dominating rebounds, 48-29.
Dickson was pivotal in holding the Trojans to one shot, hauling down a game-high 23 rebounds and finishing with a double-double of 18 points.
Still, the Longhorns led only 11-5 after the first quarter and 26-7 at halftime.
“The first half we played hard, we held them to 26, it wasn’t like we were playing bad, but I thought offensively we rushed our shots,” Trojan coach Darrel Knoll said. “I just told the guys at halftime I know it feels like we’re getting drilled, but we’re not playing that badly. Just settle down, make your shots, and keep playing tough defense. Give it all you have and give ourselves a chance.”
It worked, with the Trojans coming back a recharged team the second half, and particularly Elias Werth, who dropped a game-high 25 points on Holcomb.
Werth supplied 13 of Hillsboro’s 22 third-quarter points, which saw the Trojans shoot a blistering 57 percent from the floor, but just 26 percent on the night.
Wes Shaw added 10 points, and his basket just before the third quarter ended cut the Trojan deficit to 40-29.
Darian Ratzlaff was the only other Trojan that managed to score, pulling Hillsboro as close as it could get, 48-40, in the last 3:00 on a fast break.
The Longhorns stamped out any chance of a comeback with a 7-2 run for the final margin.
Less than 18 hours removed from having the floor give way on them in the first quarter against Clay Center, the Trojans were in front of the Longhorns midway through the first quarter, 8-7.
Just as they were the night before, 20 turnovers again played a factor, with Holcomb taking a 13-8 lead after the first quarter and 17-16 at halftime.
The Longhorns ratcheted up their defense the second half, limiting the Trojans’ ball movement, which was instrumental in Hillsboro’s success the first 16:00.
Trinity Malm’s basket in the opening 20 seconds of the second half briefly restored the Trojans’ lead, but Holcomb erupted for an 18-6 explosion that put Hillsboro down for good behind 50 percent shooting.
The Trojans gave chase the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to 40-34 with just over 3:00 left, but too many empty possessions and turnovers preserved Holcomb’s win.
“I think we realized the physicality it takes to beat a really good team,” Trojan coach Nathan Hiebert said. “With a young team, that’s a learning thing. When we’re the aggressors, good things happen.”
While being outdone on the scoreboard, the Trojans managed to shoot 32 percent from the floor while holding Holcomb to 31.
Werth scored a team-high 10 points and Abby Sechrist added 8 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots.
Last modified Jan. 24, 2018