Hillsboro welcomed Kingman to town Friday with the task of picking up momentum in the final stretch of the regular season to negotiate dangerous but manageable sub-state brackets, but they were only half as successful as they had hoped.
It took the boys three quarters to get in gear, but behind a fourth-quarter tear by Darian Ratzlaff, they put the Eagles away 52-34.
For the Lady Trojans, one quarter was all it took for the game to spin out of Hillsboro’s control, with 3A third-ranked Kingman easily prevailing, 58-19.
For three quarters, the Eagles’ pesky 2-3 zone thwarted Hillsboro’s attempts at pushing a quicker pace, forcing the Trojans to rely on their perimeter shooting. But Kingman also kept long-range threat Darian Ratzlaff in check with just 6 points.
It wasn’t long enough, as Ratzlaff erupted for 14 fourth-quarter points to help the Trojans stave off a Kingman upset.
“We’ve battled some illness and I thought we were pretty flat,” Trojans coach Darrel Knoll said. “We found the shots we needed at key times, and the fourth quarter when they had to man us up, they really struggled.
“I kept telling the guys we need to push the ball, those are things where we’ve just got to get back to who we are.”
That was something the Trojans seemed to have no idea about at the outset, going over 5 minutes without a basket after Braden Vogt made it a 3-0 game.
While the Eagles’ zone limited the Trojans to one shot inside the first quarter, they went better than 4 minutes before scoring their first basket.
The defensive battle raged on the second quarter, with the Trojans unable to get over the hill before knotting the game at the break at 17-17.
Preston Loewen’s trey to start the second half put Hillsboro ahead for good, 20-18, but the Eagles stayed within an arm’s length heading into the fourth quarter, trailing 28-26.
Hillsboro put the game out of reach with Ratzlaff fueling a 9-1 run that pushed the Trojans lead to 46-31 with just over a minute remaining.
Ratzlaff finished with a game-high 20 points, including a trio of threes to pace the Trojans’ 10-for-25 onslaught from outside.
The victory boosts Hillsboro to 13-4 overall and 6-1 in league play.
The boys played Halstead Tuesday, and won 55-40.
Paige Proffitt dejectedly strolled to a seat at the end of the Trojans’ bench after picking up her fifth foul early in the fourth quarter.
It had been that kind of night for the Lady Trojans, who after playing arguably their best quarter of the season, suffered a drastic meltdown.
Coming off a crushing double overtime loss Tuesday to Lyons, Hillsboro hardly appeared intimidated by the Central Kansas League front-running Eagles.
A pair of threes from Mesa Merrell and Savannah Unruh helped the Trojans to an 8-7 lead midway through the first quarter behind a blistering 67 percent from the floor.
But the lead wouldn’t hold up, though, and Kingman used a 7-0 run, which put Hillsboro down for good, 14-8 with 2:05 still remaining.
The Trojans stayed hot on the Eagles’ tail with a basket by Proffitt and a three from Rebecca Kaufman pulled them to within 14-13 with under a minute left.
Merrell finished with a team-high seven points, but her basket with :20 left in the first would be the last the Trojans could get to fall for over 15 minutes.
After playing one of the state’s premier teams to a 19-15 deficit after the first quarter, the game went south for Hillsboro with a 39-4 stampede the rest of the way.
That was more than enough time needed for the Eagles to blow the lid off the game and sprint to a 39-17 halftime lead.
Kingman used its smothering defense to create offense, forcing Hillsboro into 32 turnovers.
Proffitt’s basket :31 seconds into the second half marked Hillsboro’s final field goal of the contest.
Two Lady Eagles alone accounted for 39 points, with Bailey Bangert bombing Hillsboro for a game-high 25 and Shyann Jackson supplying 14 more.
The Trojans finished the outing shooting 35 percent from the floor, but had 31 shots less than the Eagles, who managed 41 percent.
Trojans coach Nathan Hiebert emptied his bench in the fourth quarter, which was played with a running clock.
“It tells me my girls haven’t quit and given up,” Hiebert said speaking of what the loss tells him. “You look at Kingman being the top team in our league and our girls coming out fighting right off the bat, it shows me they have character. I’m proud of my girls for at least fighting”.
The fourth consecutive loss drops Hillsboro to 4-13 on the year and 0-7 in conference play.
The girls played Halstead Tuesday, and lost 56-29.