A third-place game of in state tournament can be viewed two ways: as consolation for having championship hopes go down in flames or as a chance to end a season on a winning note as a springboard to next year.
Trojan girls basketball coach Micah Ratzlaff was in that spot Saturday afternoon in the consolation final of Manhattan’s Class 2A state tournament at Kansas State University’s Bramlage Coliseum.
Ratzlaff, a first-year coach, had to get his team ready to play the top-seeded Pittsburg-Colgan Bears for third less than 20 hours removed from a 39-26 semifinal-loss the night before to the eventual state-champion, the Berean Academy Warriors.
Saturday’s game went better than Friday’s, but Hillsboro’s offensive and shooting woes still lingered as the Bears hung on for a 36-33 victory.
The Trojans’ final record of 21-5 marks Hillsboro’s best finish since 2021’s 19-4.
Saturday also marked the end for Hillsboro’s senior trio of Kori Arnold, Makenna Reed, and Kirsten Kluver.
Neither the Trojans nor the Bears could establish much of a lead, as it was juggled 11 times and tied 6.
Baskets were hard to come by the entire tournament, with Hillsboro averaging a cool 27% from the floor for the tournament. Both teams shot a near identical percentage Saturday, with Colgan hitting 31% while Hillsboro hit 30%.
The Bears held Zaylee Werth scoreless from the field. She got all five of her points courtesy of free-throws.
Junior Savannah Shahan ended the season on a high-note, stinging Colgan with a game-high 19 points on 50% shooting, including three of Hillsboro’s four threes. Overall, Hillsboro attempted 16.
Colgan built an 11-10 lead after the first quarter and pushed it to 21-16 by halftime.
Hillsboro hit a scoring lapse in the third quarter, allowing the Bears to stretch the lead to eight with 3:00 left in the period.
The Trojans rallied furiously to pull to within 25-23 to start the final quarter. But the free-throw line was pivotal in the Bears’ keeping their head above water, They were 8-of-10 from the line while Hillsboro was 7-of-13.
Hillsboro went the final 2:06 without a field goal, preserving the Bears’ victory.
The Trojans had to get past the Wichita County-Leoti Indians in the first round Thursday night to face the 2A-champion Berean Academy Warriors.
Defense took center stage, and Hillsboro had to dig deep to hold off the Indians in an ugly 36-30 contest to advance.
If Hillsboro fans are wondering why the Trojans weren’t playing for their first state title in 16 years, Friday’s second half would be a great place to start.
The Trojans stuck with the Warriors the first half, trailing just 17-14 at the break, but Berean hit 50% of its shots in the second half, nearly 40% overall, and kept Hillsboro off the glass, 31-20.
Berean slowed Shahan down, limiting her to just three points and held the Trojans to tepid 25% shooting, 22% in the second half.
While Ratzlaff and the Trojans took giant strides in having one of their best teams in recent memory, it may be next year before Hillsboro hits full swing with Werth and Shahan as seniors and a strong corps of soon-to-be freshmen.