Hillsboro went into Friday’s game at Nickerson counting on points from 6-foot-6 senior center Austin Cross.
He contributed 20 points to the cause, but the Trojans didn’t expect Cross to be eclipsed by sophomore Elias Werth, who was red-hot from 3-point range as he scored a team high 22 points, helping the Trojans score a solid 76-62 win over the Panthers.
“Elias had a great game tonight,” coach Darrell Knoll said.
In turn, Werth singled out the play of Cross.
“He played a really good game,” he said. “He boarded well, scored well, he got a lot of offensive boards. He altered a lot of shots.”
The Trojans took the lead early, 13-4, but went flat as the Panthers clawed back to trail by 1 point at the end of the first quarter, 13-12.
Hillsboro took command after halftime, although it took a time out by Knoll after several miscues to get the Trojans rolling.
“He didn’t say a whole lot,” Werth said. “He just said to play tough defense and don’t let them score.”
Werth did better than that, canning two 3-pointers after the time out.
“I was just feeling it and I took shots,” he said.
The Trojans expanded the lead to 43-30, and from there they kept the Panthers at arm’s length, answering each Nickerson flurry with one of their own.
“I thought overall it was a great team effort tonight, good intensity on both ends of the court, guys being really alert and playing decently smart basketball for a first game,” Knoll said. “We got a little stale there for awhile in the first half, then we started going back inside and Austin cleaned up some stuff inside. I thought he was a big difference, just his presence in the paint.”
Knoll said Cross showed noticeable improvement from his play as a junior.
“I thought he was stronger with the ball,” Knoll said. “When he missed he didn’t get too upset with himself. His overall play for the most part was really good, knowing when to shoot it, when to kick it back out. He boarded really well. He had a great night tonight.”
The Trojans played Lyons on Tuesday in a first-round game of the Moundridge tournament. They take on Inman on Friday, followed by Moundridge on Saturday.