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Hillsboro rally falls short; MT Panthers clinch FAC championship

The Highland County Press - Staff Photo - Create Article
Hillsboro's Jack Howland scored 22 points in the Indians' game at Miami Trace Tuesday. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
Stephen Forsha, The Highland County Press

EBER — At one point of their Frontier Athletic Conference game Tuesday at Miami Trace High School, the Hillsboro Indians trailed by as many as 15 points to start the fourth quarter. 

The Indians were able to get back to within three points of the MTHS lead, but once the final buzzer sounded, it was the home team Panthers winning by 11 points by a 64-53 score, and in the process of defeating the Indians, Miami Trace won the outright FAC championship. 

“I thought our boys played their guts out all the way to the end,” Hillsboro head coach Josh Howland said. “With around three minutes to go, it was a three-point game.

“They don't quit. We have athletes. These players, it's kind of like a different team than when I first came here, even though most of them are the same players. They’ve got different attitudes. They understand. They understand it's a team, and as long as we play together, we can beat anybody.”

The game had its positive moments for the Indians, and though Hillsboro led only once in the game, they kept things close for their team on the scoreboard as they trailed by a single point when the first quarter came to a finish at 12-11. By the time halftime arrived, it was Miami Trace leading by 10 points — winning the second frame at 20-11 — for a halftime deficit for Hillsboro at 32-22. 

In that first quarter, the Panthers were first to change the number on the scoreboard with a 3-pointer from Brady Armstrong, and that was answered by Hillsboro’s Jack Howland with a two-point basket. Howland finished the game with 22 points, scoring four two-point baskets, two 3-pointers and he was 8-of-11 from the free-throw line. 

MTHS came back with another 3-pointer, this one by Bryson Osborne for a 6-2 Panthers lead, only to see the Indians’ Howland score the next three points off a layup and later a made free throw for a 6-5 MTHS lead with 5:24 left in the opening frame. 

The Panthers increased their lead with a steal and layup by Armstrong, as his fastbreak points put the Panthers in the lead at 8-5 as the halfway point of the first frame was reached on the clock. 

Howland, again, kept the Indians close by making two of three free throws on a trip to the charity stripe, and he later put them in the lead with two more made free throws at the 2:10 mark for a 9-8 lead.

HHS was only in the lead for around 40 seconds of game time as the Panthers scored the next four points with baskets by Austin Boedeker and Adam Guthrie for a 12-9 lead. The Indians scored the final points of the first quarter with a layup from Nic Burns — who totaled six points — with the assist by Howland for the 12-11 score with 3.9 seconds left in the first frame. 

Miami Trace kept their lead for the entire second quarter and turned their one-point advantage into a 10-point lead once the frame ended by outscoring the Indians 20-11 in the eight minutes of play. 

MTHS took their lead to 12-11 all the way to 22-14 with 4:10 left in the second quarter as they had baskets by Coleden May, Guthrie and Grant Guess. From there, the Indians cut their deficit in half with a Howland layup and two points by Brayden Hunter for a 22-18 score. Hunter totaled 11 points in the game. 

MTHS answered with six straight points off a basket from Guess and two buckets by Guthrie for a 10-point Miami Trace lead at 28-18 with 1:22 remaining in the first half. 

The Indians returned to the scoreboard with a layup from Steven Kibler (who finished the game with five points), and from there, the two teams exchanged baskets with HHS having another bucket from Burns, while Miami Trace had baskets by Guthrie and Guess for the aforementioned 32-22 lead. 

The third quarter went in favor of the Panthers as they began the frame with two points by Armstrong, only to be answered with a 3-pointer by Hillsboro’s Hunter. 

That trey began a sequence where the two FAC rivals exchanged two more 3-pointers with Osborne knocking down a trey, followed by another from Hunter. For good measure, it was Hunter and Osborne again exchanging 3-pointers, leaving the Panthers ahead by 12 points at 40-28 with 5:03 left in the third. 

The teams continued to stay around the 13-point deficit for the Indians, until Hunter made his third 3-pointer of the quarter with 1:59 left in the quarter, bringing the Indians back to within 10 points of the lead. 

“(Hunter) stepped up,” Howland said. “He had three 3-pointers and kind of opened things up for us.”

The third frame ended with MTHS scoring six more points, while HHS added three more points for a 50-37 score headed into the fourth quarter, including a free throw made by Mason Dumpert of HHS. 

Maybe the most intense quarter of them all was the fourth as MTHS opened the frame by extending their lead to 15 points 45 seconds into the quarter, only to see the Indians go on a 10-0 run from the 7:05 mark all the way to the 3:53 mark, getting to within three points of Miami Trace’s lead. 

The strong effort for the Indians began with a basket by Howland, followed by Davis sinking a free throw. Davis totaled eight points in the game, all from the free-throw line, as he was 8-of-9 on his attempts. 

“I thought they did a good job face guarding Tate Davis,” Howland said. “We’ve got to be a little more effective coming off screens to get those looks.” 

Next was Kibler making two shots from the free-throw line, and after the Panthers lost possession of the ball, Hillsboro answered 16 seconds later with a 3-pointer by Howland, and Davis later made two free throws for a 52-49 score with 3:53 left in the fourth. 

MTHS came back by cashing in their opportunities from the free-throw line, making four straight shots by Osborne and Guthrie, and then it was Guthrie scoring two points on a layup. Guess also made two free throws for a 60-49 lead, which turned into an 8-0 run for the home team from the 3:22 mark to the 1:47 mark of the fourth. 

Hunter brought the Indians back to within nine points with a bucket at the 1:31 mark, but the Panthers capitalized from the free-throw line with two shots made by Armstrong. Hillsboro’s final basket was a drive to the hoop from Howland, and MTHS sealed the win with two more made free throws, with the final two being made by Guthrie. 

As a team, the Indians totaled nine two-point baskets, five 3-pointers, and they were 20-of-28 from the free-throw line. 

For the Panthers, they were led by Guthrie with 24 points, followed by Guess with 12 points and Osborne with 11. The rest of the final scoring for MTHS included Armstrong (nine), May (six) and Boedeker (two). 

Team totals for Miami Trace were 20 two-point baskets, four 3-pointers, and they went 12-of-14 from the free-throw line.

Next for Hillsboro is a Division II SE District Sectional Semifinal game on Tuesday, Feb. 20, back at Miami Trace, to face the Panthers with a 7 p.m. tip-off. MTHS has defeated the Indians twice this season, as their first meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 12 at HHS saw MTHS defeat the Indians, 60-58.

      11 11 15 16 — 53
MTHS    12 20 18 14 — 64

MIAMI TRACE (64) — G.Guess 5 (0) 2-4 12, C.May 3 (0) 0-0 6, B.Armstrong 2 (1) 2-2 9, A.Boedeker 1 (0) 0-0 2, A.Guthrie 9 (0) 6-6 24, B.Osborne 0 (3) 2-2 11. TOTALS: 20 (4) 12-14 64. 

HILLSBORO (53) — M.Dumpert 0 (0) 1-2 1, T.Davis 0 (0) 8-9 8, B.Hunter 1 (3) 0-0 11, S.Kibler 1 (0) 3-6 5, N.Burns 3 (0) 0-0 6, J.Howland 4 (2) 8-11 22. TOTALS: 9 (5) 20-28 53.