Trojans upend top-ranked Skyline, but coronavirus robs them of chance to compete for state title
Players who competed during basketball’s 2019-2020 season, from the NBA all the way down to high school, will forever be haunted by one question. Who might have been crowned champion?
All the Hillsboro High boys’ team can do — along with Bishop-Seabury, Sterling, Garden Plain, and all other Class 2A contenders who fought hard for a state title this past week in Manhattan — is wonder what could have been.
The eighth-seeded Trojans, in their first appearance at state since 2017, shocked top-seeded, top-ranked Pratt Skyline, by launching a furious fourth-quarter rally from nearly 10 points behind to clinch a 57-51 victory.
The bottom dropped out from under them after the final game Thursday night when the Kansas High School Activities Association canceled the remainder of the championship in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. Marion County schools, along with schools statewide, are closed for the rest of the school year and KSHAA has canceled spring sports practices until March 22.
The win over Pratt-Skyline would be Trojans’ lone senior, Caleb Potucek’s, final game. Hillsboro ended the season with a 15-9 win-loss record.
“We are highly disappointed,” a somber Trojan coach Darrel Knoll said. “We feel like we had a good chance to continue our run in the tournament. The season feels incomplete the way it ended, but on the positive side, we finished the season with a gritty performance that thrilled the entire community.
“I am so proud of the team and of how they continually improved throughout the season. I loved how we continued to compete through adversity, and in the face of tough circumstances.”
The Trojans fell behind the Thunderbirds 15-2 in the game’s first quarter, shooting 32 percent from the field in the first half while allowing Skyline 53.
Foul trouble neutralized Hillsboro, too. Both Potucek and Jamari Harris were hampered by at least three.
But Hillsboro was breathing down Skyline’s neck by halftime, inching to 17-11 during the game’s second quarter to close the gap at just 26-19.
The T-Birds stretched their lead to 10 points as the game stood 41-31 late in the third quarter, with the aid of an 8-0 run on a four-point play. But the Trojans stayed in the game during the fourth quarter now down only 44-36, shooting 58 percent.
The Trojans’ exploded the final quarter, blowing Pratt out 21-7 to speed to the finish line.
Potucek and his brother, Matt, combined for 27 led by Matt’s game-high 16 points and Caleb’s 3-for-3 from three.
Harris, along with Breckyn Ratzlaff and Dillon Boldt, accounted for a combined 24 with Harris’s 9, Ratzlaff’s 8, and Boldt’s 7.
“We did play with a lot of resolve, and we had as good a chance as anyone to win it (2A title),” Knoll said.
Last modified March 19, 2020