Trojans split hoops season openers
Boys hang on, girls stumble
With two keys players sidelined with injuries until after the Christmas break, the big question for Trojan basketball coach Darrel Knoll is how his team is going to hold up until then.
If Friday night’s season opener against host Sterling is any indication, Knoll’s answer is just fine.
Elias Werth had a career-high 28 points and reserves Brodie Rathbone and Caleb Rempel combined for 25 with 13 and 12, respectively, to help the Trojans outlast the pesky Black Bears in an 80-76 thriller.
Wes Shaw also added 13 points and was one of four Trojans managing to pull down 6 rebounds.
“I was pleased with the game,” Knoll said. “We played team ball, which allowed us to get production out of several players.
“Sterling is an excellent team, so to go there and get a win was a great way to start the season.”
Werth flushed a quartet of threes behind 8-for-17 tries. One three stretched the Trojans’ lead to 19-6, which they maintained for the first quarter.
The Black Bears, behind a balanced scoring attack paced by Kenan Comley’s 27 points, were hot on the Trojans’ trail all night, using a 10-0 run to pull to 19-16 to start the second quarter.
Rempel also buried four threes on 4-of-6 from the field, beating the halftime buzzer to send Hillsboro in at the break with a 40-33 lead.
Sterling nearly overtook the Trojans’ lead heading into the last lap, using 67 percent from outside for a 20-14 to trim Hillsboro’s lead to 54-53.
One point difference was as close as the Black Bears could get and the Trojans’ 11-of-13 at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter—85 percent on the night—kept Sterling pinned.
Rathbone put the finishing touches on the game, as well as his career-night, with the Trojans clinging to a 78-76 lead in the waning seconds of the contest.
His pair of free throws made it a two-possession game for the final margin.
“Brodie had an excellent game as a varsity starter,” said Knoll. “We had very good play off the bench by both Caleb (Potucek) and Brooks (Gardner).
“Overall, we stayed out of foul trouble and played well in a fast-paced game.”
Without an abundance of experienced, varsity-tested players returning and a greenhorn-batch of freshmen, Friday’s season opener at Sterling wasn’t necessarily an ideal opponent for the Lady Trojans.
Hillsboro showed signs of inexperience and the Black Bears sped up the game early to pull away for a 57-25 win.
“Sterling did a good job controlling the tempo and pace of the game,” Trojan coach Nathan Hiebert said. “They pressured the ball and got a lot of easy baskets and to the free-throw line a lot.
Sterling built a 19-9 lead heading into the second quarter with cold shooting and turnovers preventing Hillsboro from realistically jeopardizing the Black Bear lead.
The second quarter was where it began slipping away for Hillsboro, suffering through a gruesome 1-for-10 shooting and 34 percent overall.
The free-throw line offered little assistance also, with the Trojans going 2-for-13 on the night.
The game had all but been decided by halftime with Sterling using a 17-4 run to grab a commanding 36-13 lead.
With the contest being out of striking distance for the Trojans, Hiebert used time to utilize his underclassmen.
“It was a good opportunity for our young team to see the intensity and physicality of the game,” said Hiebert. “We have to improve our ability to handle both more in the future to be successful.”
Sterling’s 19 points off a fatal 28 Trojan turnovers helped make for a running clock the fourth quarter with the Black Bears’ lead swelling to 51-19.
The Trojans played the Sterling reserves to a 6-6 fourth quarter, shooting a perfect 3-of-3 from the field for 11-for-32 on the night.
Sienna Kaufman’s 9 points paced the Trojans and Trinity Malm added 8.
The Trojans compete this week at the Moundridge pre-season tournament with a Thursday meeting at Inman, closed out by a Friday game against the hosting Wildcats.
Last modified Dec. 6, 2017