Over the course of the last two nights, the Hillsboro varsity girls basketball team has experienced the highs and lows of high school athletics. On Tuesday, the team didn’t perform up to expectations in a 65-31 loss to Fox. However, on Wednesday, the Hawks came back from a halftime deficit to defeat Windsor on the road, 37-30. Hillsboro is now 4-17 on the season.
Looking at Tuesday’s game, the Hawks stayed with the Lady Warriors in the first half, only trailing 27-21 at the break. “I thought we came out competing hard and making some good adjustments early in the game,” said head coach Joe Fehlker. “Zoe Wood hit a three-pointer at the first quarter buzzer to pull us to within three. The second quarter was very similar, but we answered back several times, including two baskets from Elaina Readnour. I felt like we were very much in the ballgame going into the locker room at halftime.”
But the second half proved difficult for Hillsboro. The team managed just ten points while Fox took off, scoring 38. “We had several unforced turnovers that led to easy baskets for them right at the outset of the third quarter, and that made it difficult for us to come back,” Fehlker pointed out. “We struggled to convert shots and even the free attempts we had.” Emma Kruse said the team lacked focus on Tuesday night. “I think the game was mentally rough,” she said. “I think a lot of our heads really weren’t in the game. We kept making simple mistakes that hurt us in the long run.” Readnour said things just weren’t clicking. “When we worked as a team, we scored, but there were times that we all weren’t in sync with each other, and it showed.”
Coach Fehlker said every game continues to be a learning process. “I think this is a good learning lesson for us because in the first half, we demonstrated much of the same resiliency we showed the entire game against Jefferson on Monday. However, I think the girls learned that you must play hard and compete, but also execute the technical skills in order to win games.” Hillsboro had 30 turnovers in the game.
Payton Bingman and Readnour shared game high honors with ten points apiece. Both made two three-pointers, and Readnour added a game high 11 rebounds and one blocked shot. Wood finished with seven points, including a three-pointer and seven rebounds. Maya LaPlantenotched three points and two assists, while Kenzie Baker rounded out the scoring with one point. She also had three steals. Coach Fehlker also pointed out the work of Emma Hirstein. “Emma continues to work extremely hard in the paint, even if her stats do not always reflect it.” She did have four rebounds on the night.
Turning to Wednesday, a conference road game against Windsor provided the Hawks a chance to reap some benefits from some of the good things they had done the two previous nights. “The first half we were doing a good job of taking care of the ball and getting good looks,” said Fehlker. “We just simply couldn’t get any shots to fall. Defensively, we had a few mistakes, but we only gave up 13 points, so it was very strong effort.” At the end of the first half, Hillsboro trailed 13-10. The Hawks had gotten six points from Readnour, but couldn’t generate much more.
“At halftime we discussed not getting frustrated and staying in the game mentally,” said Fehlker. Baker said this team takes instruction to heart. “We talked about what we were seeing, and what needed to be adjusted. With this group of girls, we are really good at taking those changes and implementing them into the game. And that is what turned around the second half. We started to be more aggressive, smart, and our shots were dropping. We put heart into this win, and I think it showed.”
Bingman, who had been held scoreless in the first half, dropped five points in the third quarter. Baker added four points, Sara Stokes hit a big three-pointer, and Hirstein chipped in two. By the end of the quarter, Hillsboro was up 24-20. “We started picking each other up more and encouraging each other to try our hardest and give our best in the second half,” said Bingman. Fehlker said it was a relief to see the offense come alive. “We were finally able to get some things going offensively, kickstarted by Sara’s three-pointer from the corner right in front of the bench immediately after checking in,” he said. “Our defense continued to play well, forcing turnovers and missed shots.”
Once the team had the lead, Readnour said it was important to stay the course. “We kept our minds focused on our plays and game plan,” she said. “As well as continuing to work as a team.” Baker scored five points in the fourth quarter, while Bingman and Readnour added four apiece to keep the Hawks ahead of the Owls. “The girls continued their excellent play in the fourth, extending the lead to 13 points at one point,” said Fehlker. “Although we didn’t convert as many free throws as we would like, the girls did a great job of being strong with the ball down the stretch to get to the line and then forcing tough shots on the other end.”
Baker and Readnour led the Hawks with ten points, while Bingman was right behind with nine. Hirstein and Stokes added four and three points respectively, while LaPlante finished with one point. Readnour said it’s good to see some dividends from their hard work. “It’s definitely rewarding and helps us push through until the end of the season.”
“This was definitely a game where we showed our grit and toughness,” said Fehlker. “I am really proud of how we bounced back from the Fox game, and also how we fought for the entire 32 minutes of this game. Sara provided a huge boost off the bench for us and gave us a spark when we needed it. Elaina and Kenzie both did a good job of rebounding, handling the ball, and making shots when we needed them to. Payton played outstanding defense again and was able to convert two three-pointers along with a full-speed jump stop jumper in transition.”
To cap a busy week, Hillsboro travels to DeSoto tonight for another conference game. The varsity game will follow the freshman game which is