Toppers Surge Past Panthers

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A strong start to each half proved beneficial for the Hillsboro girls basketball team as the Lady Hiltoppers defeated Litchfield 52-32 on Saturday, Dec. 21, on the Lady Panthers’ home court.

Eighteen of the 20 points in Hillsboro’s final margin of victory came in either the first or third quarters as the Toppers outscored Litchfield by eight in the first and ten in the third. In the other two frames, Litchfield kept pace, matching Hillsboro in the second and being outscored by just two in the fourth.

Hillsboro would work the ball inside in the first quarter to build up their lead, with Claire Tester scoring four points in the 12-4 quarter. The Panthers also had some success underneath, with Carly Boden knocking down all four points, but behind the arc Litchfield struggled to find its shot.

That changed in the second quarter as Cara Pence and Carson Jackson both hit threes for the home team. Coupled with a lob to Boden in the early going, Litchfield would get as close as five, 14-9, after Pence’s three at the 5:57 mark.

Hillsboro would continue to work the ball inside and beat the Panthers on the boards. Nikya Harston had five points in the quarter, a basket and three free throws, while Hillsboro also added an outside shooting element with Layne Rupert and Haley Major hitting threes.

Major’s three and one of Harston’s free throws boosted the Hillsboro lead to 11, but Jackson would hit a three at the buzzer for the Panthers to make it an eight-point game, 25-17, in Hillsboro’s favor at the half.

The Toppers would ratchet up the defense in the third quarter as they held Litchfield without a point for six minutes and 40 seconds before Jackson scored on a layup. Hillsboro would spread 14 points between four players, with Harston adding five to her total and Tester chipping in four.

Boden would get Litchfield on the board first in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to 16, but Hillsboro scored the next six points on baskets by Shelby Houchlei and Claire Tester (two) as the margin ballooned to 22 points.

The two rivals would trade buckets over the final four minutes of the game as Hillsboro came away with their sixth win of the season, 52-32.

Claire Tester would lead all scorers with 14, while Nikya Harston added 12. Haley Major hit a pair of threes and added eight points, followed by Shelby Houchlei with four, Layne Rupert and Vanessa Compton with three and Emma Miller and Alex Frailey with two each.

Carly Boden would lead Litchfield with 12 points, followed by Carson Jackson with eight, Maddie Diamond with four, Becky Painter with three, Cara Pence with three and Emily Senjan with two.

This was the non-conference meeting between the two clubs, with the conference tilt set for Jan. 9, in Hillsboro. Both teams will squeeze one more game in before the Christmas break, with Hillsboro playing at Auburn on Dec. 23, at 6 p.m. and Litchfield hosting Vandalia on the same day at 11 a.m. After Christmas, Hillsboro will head to the Riverton Christmas Tournament, while Litchfield is bound to the Carlinville Holiday Tournament.

December 21 at Litchfield

Hillsboro 12 13 14 13 52

Litchfield 4 13 4 11 32

Hillsboro (52) - Claire Tester 14, Nikya Harston 12, Haley Major 8, Emily Reynolds 4, Shelby Houchlei 4, Layne Rupert 3, Vanessa Compton 3, Emma Miller 2, Alex Frailey 2. Totals: 22 4-12 52.

Litchfield (32) - Carly Boden 12, Carson Jackson 8, Maddie Diamond 4, Becky Painter 3, Cara Pence 3, Emily Senjan 2. Totals: 14 0-2 32.

Three-point field goals: Hillsboro 4 (Major 2, Rupert 1, Compton 1); Litchfield 4 (Jackson 2, Painter 1, Pence 1).

Records: Hillsboro (6-5), Litchfield (8-7).

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