ROYALL — The third time still wasn’t a charm for John Koopman’s Hillsboro Tigers.
For the third time this season top-seeded and Scenic Bluffs champion Royall proved too much for Hillsboro.
The Panthers ended the Tigers’ season with a 54–41 final in Saturday’s WIAA Division 5 regional final.
Hillsboro (11–14) overcame some early jitters and turnovers and were within a point late in the second quarter.
But the Panthers (22–3) scored the final six points of the half, then blew open a close game with a big third quarter.
Senior Nate Scheeter scored 11 of his game-high 14 points in Royall’s 19–8 third-quarter run giving the Panthers an insurmountable 41–22 lead. Scheeter also grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds in the win.
“The third was a little rough for us,” said Koopman. “We still had a hard time scoring and they were able to get some fast break opportunities and pull ahead. In the fourth we turned up the defense and cut the lead to eight with just under two minutes to go but just couldn’t get any closer.”
Royall made 7 of 10 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter to secure the win.
Freshman Joey Helgerson scored a game-high 16 points on 5 of 12 shooting to lead Hillsboro, which finished the season 11–14 overall.
Junior Matt Anderson added 11 points and five rebounds.
“I was very proud of how our guys played in the playoffs,” said Koopman. “They really competed well and played better as the games went on. We gave a very good team in Royall everything they wanted and I think they were glad to get out of there with a win. As a young team, this was playoff experience we needed. I wasn’t sure how the team would respond, but they really stepped up to the challenge. This should really give them confidence going into next year.”
Hillsboro opened the playoffs last Tuesday with a 45–30 victory over Wonewoc–Center.
Sophomore Avery Rueckheim scored a game-high 15 points on 5 of 9 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the victorious Tigers.
Helgerson made three 3-pointers and finished with 12 points.
Friday night Hillsboro defeated visiting La Farge 58–40 in a D5 regional semifinal.
Rueckheim continued his strong late-season play with a career-high 19 points on 8 of 9 shooting and seven rebounds in the win.
“They had no answer for Avery,” said Koopman. “He played outstanding.”
Junior Matt Anderson chipped in 14 points and seven rebounds.
“The season was kind of a roller coaster with a lot of ups and downs,” said Koopman. “With a young group you expect that. The kids really worked hard and got along great with each other. The key is if they are able to take this season and build on it. Good teams don’t wait until November to start preparing. They need to continue to work on their individual game in the off-season so we can hit the season at full speed next year.”