The Hillsboro girls’ basketball team defeated Haven, 43-32, Saturday to qualify for the state tournament. It is the fifth consecutive season the Trojans have qualified for the state tournament.
“People take for granted how difficult it is,” head coach Nathan Hiebert said. “It’s a testament to their work ethic and focus. Every year there is a little added pressure. The girls did it the right way — trusted their preparation, focus, and their teammates.”
That focus was evident in the adjustments the team made playing Haven for a second time. In the Feb. 15 matchup in Haven, the Wildcats kept the game close by hitting 3-pointers and connecting on backdoor cuts.
Haven shot two-for-20 from beyond the arc on Saturday.
“They took a lot of threes and it wasn’t like they were all standing there wide open,” Hiebert said. “I’m pleased that those were the shots we were forcing them to take.”
Hailey Davis, shooting one-for-nine, had one and Ashley Rogers had the other. Addie Lackey guarded Davis for most the game holding the Haven guard to six points and one made shot. Loewen guarded Rogers, holding the Haven forward to eight points.
“Tena said that (Rogers) was mumbling to herself that she was going to stop shooting,” teammate Danae Bina said.
The Trojans also worked diligently to deny baskets on backdoor cuts. Haven had limited success on Saturday but only on plays where a Haven guard would work around a screen at the top of the key.
“We had to be careful not to over-deny that,” Bina said.
The Trojans’ strong defensive effort, holding Haven to 20 percent shooting from the field and winning the rebounding battle 26-18, allowed them to hold a 10-3 lead after one quarter and go up 21-10 after two quarters.
Another adjustment the Trojans made in the second meeting with the Wildcats was continuing to attack the basket. It seemed a futile approach in the second half. Part of the reason, the Trojans accumulated 20 turnovers was because of loose balls created on drives.
The strategy also caused Haven to accumulate fouls. Hailey Davis, MaKayla Stucky, and Holly Davis all fouled out of the game. Loewen, Maci Schlehuber, Alex Ratzlaff, and Lackey all hit free throws to allow the Trojans to expand a 36-30 lead with 1 minute, 13 seconds left. Maci Schlehuber had eight points on six-of-seven shooting from the free throw line. Loewen scored seven points all from the free-throw line, shooting seven-of-eight from the charity stripe.
Bina was the only player to get free for looks close to the basket in the second half. She had two layups on back cuts. She was tied as the leading scorer for Hillsboro with 12 points with Lackey.
“Forty-four was really playing tight,” Hiebert said. “I was proud she read the defense.”
Despite the Trojans effort on defense, they were never able to get more than 11-point lead in the game because Haven also played very tough man-to-man defense. The goal for the Wildcats was to keep Tena Loewen out of the lane. Stucky was able to push Loewen away from the block. Once Loewen tried to drive, the Haven defense would close around her. Loewen did not hit a shot from the field. She did record 10 rebounds to lead the team.
Bina said Haven played physical against all penetration also limiting Lackey to six shots and holding the Hillsboro forward without an assist.
However, the reason why the Trojans have amassed a 21-2 record is that they have a myriad of options available. As an example, Ratzlaff scored four points in the game and had two steals in just over 12 minutes of game time. She gave the Trojans an athletic option off the bench at the center position with Christina Morris in foul trouble. Her ball handling ability is an asset, but Hiebert said he is not sure how much she will play in the state tournament.
Bina said the Trojans are now determined to use every competitive advantage in pursuit of a state championship.
“We’re ready for the next level,” she said. “We want a title.”
Southeast of Saline
The Trojans easily defeated Southeast of Saline on Friday, 59-28.
Hillsboro led 33-16 at halftime and pulled away to lead 51-20 after three quarters.
Loewen scored 21 points on 10-for-10 shooting from the floor. Lackey had 13 points, five rebounds, and six assists to lead Hillsboro in the latter two categories. Bina had 11 points and five steals.
The Trojans had 18 steals and forced 31 turnovers, scoring 25 points off turnovers
Hillsboro defeated Marion 64-13 Feb. 27 in the Trojans’ first sub-state contest.
Bina was the high scorer for Hillsboro with 18 points. She was also tied for the lead in rebounds with eight boards, five offensive, had seven steals, and three assists.
Loewen was second in scoring with 15 points and had eight rebounds. Loewen shot five-for-six from the field.
Lackey had 12 points, six rebounds, and four steals.
As a team, the Trojans shot 50 percent from the floor while holding the Warriors to 11.7 percent shooting, including a zero-point second quarter. Hillsboro forced 29 turnovers with 21 steals.