Late lead, third place, slip out of Lady Trojans' grasp"


Sports writer

The scene is becoming pretty familiar to the Hillsboro High School Lady Trojans' basketball team.

HHS let another lead slip away again Saturday, facing a beatable Hesston Lady Swather team in the third place game of the Hillsboro Trojan Classic.

Hanging for dear life to a 43-41 lead late in the game, Hillsboro (5-6) gave up 12 unanswered points and fell 53-43.

The Trojans finished the Classic 1-2, beating Sunrise Academy in the opening game Jan. 14, 55-47, but bottomed out Thursday to tournament runner-up Thomas More Prep in a 45-23 blowout hampered by 31 turnovers.

"We came out a little sluggish with not much intensity," a disappointed Trojan coach Nathan Hiebert said after Saturday's game. "I think a lot of that goes back to our lack of experience. We don't know what to do or what the other team is like."

The Trojans were battling from behind the entire game, trailing by as many as 10 in the second half.

Turnovers have been the Trojans' worst enemy, and 19 in the first half, (27 for the game) kept them from never getting any closer than three points the first half in spite of shooting 50 percent for the game.

Taylor Raleigh burned Hillsboro for a game-high 21 points, including three three-pointers.

She pushed the Swather lead to 19-10 to start the second quarter and the Trojans were faced with a nine-point deficit six times through the game.

Dakota Kaufman scored a team-high 15 points, getting Hillsboro to within 19-14 just inside the four-minute mark of the opening half.

The Swathers hit a scoring lapse for nearly four minutes but Hillsboro went nearly three without a basket as well, and Raleigh drained two free throws to put Hesston up 25-16 by halftime.

Hillsboro emerged a different team the second half, getting a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 30-28 with Hesston going the waning three minutes of the third quarter scoreless.

After tying the game twice to start the fourth quarter, Kaufman finally pushed the Trojans over the hill, 37-36 with 5:30 left, scoring on a fast break.

Amy Neufeld chipped in 10 points, giving Hillsboro a two-point lead.

The Trojans snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, though, with Brianna McGuire stealing the ball with 1:31 to go, helping the Swathers get 22 points off turnovers.

Hillsboro went the final 3:30 without a basket, another steal allowing the Swathers eventually to pull ahead by two possessions.

Hesston put the game away at the free-throw line with less than a minute to go, knocking down five of six.

"The second half we realized we could play with them and take care of business," Hiebert said. "Our defensive pressure picked up a lot and frustrated them which led to some easier buckets. The turnovers happened at the wrong time.

"Hesston did a nice job attacking and they kept their composure and knocked down their free throws which made it harder for us."

The Trojans return to action Friday, playing host to Marion with a 6 p.m. start.