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Trojans punch ticket to 2A state tournament

Hillsboro boys outlast Lyndon, 43-32

Staff writer

Less than 24 hours removed from surviving a 44-43 overtime scare against feisty Moundridge, one of the last things the Trojans could afford was another slow start.

Fall behind early in Saturday’s final game of the Canton-Galva substate, and the Lyndon Tigers, riding an eight-game winning streak, had enough quickness and talent to put the brakes on Hillsboro’s season.

With a ticket to the Class 2A state tournament on the line, the Trojans made sure history didn’t repeat itself, using a fast start and pesky defense to tame the Tigers, 43-32.

“We really frustrated those guys tonight,” an ecstatic Trojan coach Darrel Knoll said. “We were able to get out of the first half with a solid lead and the second half, the guys brought it.

“It was an unbelievable defensive game tonight; offensively, we seemed a lot more in rhythm. We seemed to be back to where we were to start the year and maybe the best defensive effort we’ve had all year.”

Unless there’s good defense, rarely will 30 percent shooting add up to positive results.

With the victory, Hillsboro’s trip to Class 2A’s state tournament at Kansas State University’s Bramlage Coliseum will be its first since 2014, when they lost in the first round to Olpe.

Unlike the previous game when it took the Trojans three quarters before finally getting in gear, they exploded out of the gate and maintain a lead all but about 2 minutes of the game.

Carson Herbel sank a pair of free throws at 2:36 into the contest, throwing the Tigers in a hole they never could escape from.

After Jamie Reed’s basket with just over 4:30 left in the opening quarter cut the lead to 7-5, Lyndon spent more than 9 minutes trying to get the lid of its basket, missing a dozen consecutive shots.

Joe Knoll came off the bench to drop 10 points on Lyndon, burying a three that helped push the Trojans’ lead to 11-6 after the first quarter.

Hillsboro benefited from the inside play of Wes Shaw, who used his bulk and muscle to help keep the Tigers off the offensive glass while blocking four shots.

While Lyndon had little luck slowing down the Trojans offense, foul trouble did, with Darian Ratzlaff and Herbel spending much of the second quarter on the bench.

The Trojans paid for it, too, shooting a frigid 5-for-22 the first half, but Ratzlaff still posted a team-high 12 points.

Despite shooting a blustery 17 percent—26 for the night— Lyndon was still within an arm’s length at the break, using a 6-0 run the final 1:32 to cut the lead to 16-11.

Chances of the Tigers keeping pace began evaporating the third quarter as a 12-3 Hillsboro run, sparked by Preston Loewen’s three, left Lyndon doubled up at 28-14.

Lyndon still wasn’t done, outscoring the Trojans 6-2 over the waning 2:18 of the third quarter, shrinking the deficit to 30-22.

The Tigers got as close as 32-25 after Beau Brecheisen’s three, but the Trojans were able to enjoy a double-digit lead the final 4:44, even with modest 56 percent shooting at the free-throw line.

“After that Smoky (Valley) loss, practices have been much more intense,” said Knoll. “They went from being good practices to really good practices. We’ve got to trust each other defensively and offensively and I thought tonight that trust was there pretty well.”

With a record of 17-6, the Trojans drew the eighth seed at state, setting up today’s matchup with top-seeded and second-ranked Salina-Sacred Heart.

The teams have faced three common opponents since the Knights opened the season with a 66-36 lashing from Hesston.

Since then, Sacred Heart has reeled off 22 consecutive wins, including 71-53 and 64-61 sweeps of Southeast of Saline, 20 and 27 point wins over Republic County, and an 83-51 beat-down of Council Grove.

Today’s action is set for 6:30 p.m. in Manhattan.

Last modified March 9, 2017

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