It would be hard to blame Hillsboro High School boys’ basketball coach Darrel Knoll if he’s disgusted these days.
Just about anything that can malfunction on a basketball team has done so this year.
Whether it’s illness, inconsistency, starting and finishing games, protecting leads and the home court, or even fundamentals, all have been Hillsboro’s downfall at least one point this season.
The Trojans have had some rough games this year, however, Saturday’s third-place game of Hillsboro’s Trojan Classic against the Thomas More Prep Monarchs may have been the worst.
This time it was fundamentals with the Monarchs (8-4) dominating the Trojans (6-6) in rebounding, 34-15, and clinching third with a more lopsided 55-41 victory than the score indicated.
“I’m not sure what we were doing, we just didn’t move the ball well,” a near-speechless Knoll said. “Rebounding just killed us tonight, more than anything else, it was the rebounding.
“We got on our heels a little bit the first half and it seemed like we were a little flat all over the place both offensively and defensively. Finally when we were able to pick up the pressure and create some turnovers, it was too little, too late.”
The Trojans’ plans of playing for the Classic title were ruined Friday night in the semifinals by 2A’s top-ranked team, the Republic County Buffaloes, 52-42, leaving Hillsboro with a 1-2 finish.
Daniel Jost is one of Hillsboro’s three biggest weapons, unfortunately for him, his team-high 16 points, including four three-pointers, were not enough to carry the team against TMP.
The Monarchs and coach Joe Hertel’s game plan was simple — limit Clay Shewey’s outside looks, and keep David Loewen from getting into his game inside.
TMP played that to the tune of a combined 12 points by the duo with the Monarchs limiting Hillsboro to a woeful two offensive rebounds and Loewen a total of four.
That left the Trojans never realistically having a chance, shooting just 29 percent from the floor — 36 on the night.
Shewey got Hillsboro out to a 2-0 lead, but Nolan McNeil fueled a 15-2 run that left the Trojans in peril with just less than two minutes left in the first quarter.
McNeil lit up the Trojans for a game-high 19 points while Shane Gottschalk and Drew Hertel chipped in 12 and 11 respectively.
McNeil alone nearly out-rebounded Hillsboro by himself, finishing with a double-double of 19 points and 14 rebounds.
Shewey pulled the Trojans as close as 17-12 with a rare four-point play — the first of two times Hillsboro was able to get that close again — with 4:58 to go in the first half.
Even with the misery of cold shooting and poor rebounding, the Trojans were still lurking at halftime, trailing, 26-19.
Loewen trimmed the lead to five again with the first basket of the second half before the wheels came off the Trojans’ wagon.
Drew Hertel flushed a three, sparking a 10-0 run, which widened the Monarch gap to 36-21 with just less than three minutes left in the third quarter as Hillsboro went nearly five minutes without a point.
Hillsboro trailed by as many as 18 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, never cutting the deficit to single digits with the Monarchs shooting 55 percent the second half.
“They’re (TMP) solid, they’re physical, and they’re big”, Knoll said. “We didn’t make shots, we didn’t get any rebounds, and if you’re one and out every time, it’s going to be tough to score.
“We’ve got to jump back, look at what we did, fix it, and move on. That’s all we can do, we can’t sit there and worry about it.”
One thing the Trojans may be able to look forward to the second half of the season is perhaps an easier schedule.
After a week to tune-up, Hillsboro returns to action Tuesday, traveling to Lyons.