Warriors end Lady Trojans' bid for state
By RYAN RICHTER
The one thing the Hillsboro High School Lady Trojans learned from their first meeting Jan. 25 against the Marion Warriors is the fact the Warriors are not a team hesitant to drive to the basket.
The Trojans found that out the hard way, tumbling 56-48 in league play.
Fast forward to Feb. 26 in the final scheduled varsity game to be played at the Marion High School gym, and history found a heartbreaking way to repeat itself for the Trojans.
Marion earned a living at the free-throw line, hitting 26-of-38, putting the brakes on Hillsboro's (9-12) season with a 67-55 victory.
"The key things we talked about in this game were not fouling — we fouled," a sullen Trojan coach Nathan Hiebert said. "We knew they're very aggressive to the basket and we knew the players we needed to watch on shooting, they just did a better job of executing what they wanted to do. "
Lindsay Hett pushed the Trojans in the hole, ripping them for a game-high 26 points — 19 in the first half — nailing 4-of-5 from behind the three-point line.
Dakota Kaufman's career-high 26 points tied Hett as leading scorer, and she also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
Hillsboro was able to construct a four-point lead twice in the first quarter, once on a Kaufman basket and on a three-point play from senior Samantha Heinrichs, who wrapped up her career with a 14-point outing.
The lead changed hands three times in the first quarter until Kristen Steinborn scored on a fast break to put Marion in front 15-14 with just less than a minute left.
Looking back over Hillsboro's season, its inability to take care of the ball has been its biggest downfall.
That again crippled the Trojans for the last time, as they were never again able to mount a lead through the rest of the first half.
The Warriors forced 24 turnovers — 16 in the first half alone — punishing Hillsboro for 26 points off of them.
Overcoming a lead hasn't been a strength for the Trojans either, and the Warriors closed the first half on a 9-0 run to stretch their lead to 31-22 by halftime.
Hillsboro shot better than it had during the season, knocking down 39 percent of its shots, but the Warriors attacked the basket the first half and shot 58 percent.
Marion widened the gap to 13 twice in the third quarter with triples from Hett and Kayley Heerey, leaving the Trojans in grave danger, 46-33, heading into the final quarter of the season.
Without a player on the roster taller than 5-9, the Warriors had no way to stop Kaufman inside.
She got the Trojans to within six three times in the final quarter, but the Warriors hit the gas pedal every time it appeared Hillsboro was gaining on them.
Marion went to the line 20 times through three quarters, but the Warriors hit a cold-blooded 17-of-18 in the fourth quarter alone to keep pushing their lead.
That kept the Trojans from getting any closer than they did, despite Hillsboro holding the Warriors to less than 30 percent shooting the second half.
"We were in it for a while that second quarter then right at the end we just had too many errors right in a row and dug us that hole," Hiebert said.
Amy Neufeld and Amanda Faber also played their final games with the Trojans.
Faber finished as Hillsboro's third-leading scorer with eight points, but foul trouble neutralized Neufeld, as she made just two free throws on the night.
"It's been an honor to coach at Hillsboro and it's been an honor to coach these girls," Hiebert said. "I've got quality girls on this ball club and I'd choose them any day.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to continue to coach and I'm excited that the young girls are buying into the system and getting better."