Trojans trip Riley Co. for seventh at tourney
By RYAN RICHTER
During the past seven seasons, few teams have been a thorn in the Hillsboro Trojans boys' basketball team's side quite like the Riley County Falcons.
The two teams have battled it out on the hardwood all seven seasons, twice meeting for third place at the Class 3A state tournament in Hutchinson.
Both renewed their acquaintance Saturday for the seventh place game of Hillsboro Trojan Classic, playing in the gym which many of the Trojans started their basketball careers — Hillsboro Middle School.
After dropping a 78-75 heartbreaker in overtime Jan. 14 to Thomas More Prep, and a 59-49 loss Thursday to the Marion Warriors, the Trojans (6-5) were able to grind out a 67-62 victory against the Falcons to capture seventh place.
"We played a real good ball game today," Trojan coach Darrel Knoll said. "We had some unfortunate turnovers in the end to make it a little more exciting. I was proud of the effort against a team that played a real physical game.
Clay Shewey scored a team-high 17 points for HHS, Gavin Serene added 15, and David Loewen finished with a double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds.
Heading into the contest, two things that worried Knoll was how the Trojans were going to respond to the Falcons' pressing defense and up-tempo transition game.
He had a good reason to worry as the Falcons got many of their first half baskets on fast breaks. Most of them came from Bruce Field, who had a game-high 22 points, including 15 in the first half.
Riley County's defense forced Hillsboro into 21 turnovers that turned into 19 points for the Falcons.
With three lead changes in the first quarter, Loewen scored two consecutive baskets to help give the Trojans a 15-12 lead to start the second quarter.
Serene scored seven straight points in a span of just more than two minutes in the second quarter, but the two teams juggled the lead four more times.
Andy Klassen put the Trojans on top right before the break, 34-33, capping off a 6-0 run with the Falcons going scoreless the closing one minutes, 30 seconds.
The lead changed hands three more times in the first 2:04 of the second half until Serene flushed his second triple to put Hillsboro on top to stay, 41-39.
The Trojans jumped ahead as far as 11 twice in the fourth quarter, once on a three-point play from Serene and the other on a basket from Loewen.
Riley County made one last push in the last 1:30, pulling within 65-62 with Jase Hartenbower converting on a three-point play with 34 seconds left.
With a combined 40 fouls called during the game and Hillsboro shooting 22-of-31 at the free-throw line, Serene mailed the victory in, sinking a pair with two seconds left to make it a two possession game.
"Normally we're good at the free-throw line when the game is on the line and today we weren't for whatever reason," said Knoll. "We did a lot better job shutting down their transition game the second game.
"Riley's a good pressing team and that worried me. I thought playing on a court this size would make their press seem even bigger."
The Trojans return to action Friday when they host Marion in a rematch with the tip-off set for 8 p.m.