An experience advantage benefitted the Hillsboro girls basketball team on Monday, Feb. 3, as the Lady Hiltoppers defeated Nokomis 55-32 in Hillsboro.
With freshmen starting at three positions, Nokomis is still finding their footing as a varsity basketball team, which showed at times against the more experienced Lady Hiltoppers.
Juniors Nikya Harston and Claire Tester, two of the holdovers from last year's Class 2A state team, crashed the boards for Hillsboro, particularly on the offensive end, where they combined for eight of Hillsboro's 16 offensive rebounds.
Those rebounds turned into points for the Toppers, who led 17-7 after the first quarter. Harston and Tester would have 14 of Hillsboro's 17 points in the first, with Haley Major hitting a three at the 7:21 mark to give her team a 3-2 lead that they would never relinquish.
With the inside working well, Hillsboro got contributions from the outside in the second quarter, with Major and Layne Rupert both hitting from behind the arc. The Toppers' defense would also be problematic in the second quarter as they held Nokomis to just five points and one field goal, a putback by Audrey Sabol with 6:18 to play in the first half.
Mia Fesser (two) and Macee Eisenbarth (one) would add free throws for the Redskins, but the visitors trailed 33-12 at the break.
While Hillsboro continued to have success on the offensive end in the second half, Nokomis came out strongly in the third quarter. The Redskins would match the Toppers point-for-point in the third as each scored 12.
Harston and Tester would continue to score inside for Hillsboro, with eight and four respectively, while Nokomis' Macee Eisenbarth tripled her first half total with six points in the third quarter, giving her nine for the game.
Still down 21, Nokomis would try to cut further into the Hillsboro lead, but were held to eight points, four each from Eisenbarth and Emma Sneddon.
Hillsboro would lead by as many as 25 in the fourth quarter, with Major hitting a pair of jumpers for four points and Rupert hitting her second three.
While Nikya Harston led the team with 21 points and 11 rebounds for another double-double, her 13th of the season, the Toppers had some balance to their offense. Claire Tester added in 13 points and seven boards, while Major also reached double figures with ten points. Layne Rupert added in eight points, four rebounds and four assists, with Emily Reynolds contributing the other three points. Alex Frailey also had five rebounds for the Toppers, who improved to 16-12 with their fourth straight win.
Macee Eisenbarth would pace Nokomis with 13 points and six rebounds, while Mia Fesser added six points and two assists. Emma Sneddon and Audrey Sabol would each have four points, with Sabol pulling in five boards.
Addison Dangbar had Nokomis' only three and matched Eisenbarth for the team lead in rebounds with six, while Jayme Johnson rounded out the scoring with two points.
The Redskins, who moved to 12-18 on the season, were 10-of-46 from the field, while Hillsboro was 22-of-60.
Both teams will close out the season on Thursday, Feb. 6, with Hillsboro taking on Southwestern at home and Nokomis playing Cowden-Herrick/Beecher City on the road.
February 3 at Hillsboro
Nokomis 7 5 12 8 32
Hillsboro 17 15 12 10 55
Nokomis (32) - Macee Eisenbarth 13, Mia Fesser 6, Emma Sneddon 4, Audrey Sabol 4, Addison Dangbar 3, Jayme Johnson 2. Totals: 10 11-16 32.
Hillsboro (55) - Nikya Harston 21, Claire Tester 13, Haley Major 10, Layne Rupert 8, Emily Reynolds 3. Totals: 22 7-12 55.
Three-point field goals: Nokomis 1 (Dangbar 1); Hillsboro 4 (Major 2, Rupert 2).
Records: Nokomis (12-18); Hillsboro (16-12).