CASHTON — Top-seeded Cashton’s aggressiveness was a stark contrast to Royall’s methodical pace.
A night after vanquishing the more mild Panthers in a WIAA Division 5 regional semifinal game, Hillsboro fell to the high-flying Eagles in Saturday’s regional final at Cashton High School, 56–40.
The Eagles (19–6) raced out to a 15–7 first-quarter lead and led throughout.
“I think the quick start just came from a big switch of pace from the night before,” said first-year Hillsboro head coach Scott Egan. “Royall likes to play more of a half court game, whereas Cashton likes to get out in transition and get up quick shots. Our girls seemed a little rattled by that in the first quarter. Because we were not getting back defensively and getting in position, we ended up fouling a lot.”
Cashton shot seven free throws in the first quarter.
Freshman guard Courtney Fanta came of the bench to give Hillsboro a second-quarter spark scoring six points as the Tigers closed the gap to 26–21 by halftime.
The teams traded baskets in the third quarter, but Cashton’s Morgan Pieper buried a pair of 3-pointers to keep the Eagles in control.
Abby Kaiser and Lexy Schroeder connected from downtown early in the fourth as Cashton began to pull away. The Eagles made 10 of 15 free throws in the quarter and closed the game on a 19–8 run.
“Cashton had some players step up and hit big outside shots,” said Egan. “Our game plan was to take away the paint and make them hit jump shots. Unfortunately for us, their shooters were hitting. We also seemed a little exhausted in the fourth, causing us to not play great defense and send them to the line a lot.
Schroeder finished with a game-high 16 points. Pieper added 10 for the winners.
Junior guard Mackenzie Sullivan led Hillsboro with nine points, seven rebounds and two assists.
Junior Destiny Shore added eight points, three rebounds and three steals.
Hillsboro 56, Kickapoo 28
Hillsboro opened the playoffs last Tuesday with a 56–28 win over seventh-seeded Kickapoo (3–20).
Freshman Sydney Johnson scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Shore added nine points, while Sullivan chipped in seven points and eight rebounds.
The Tigers blew open a close game, outscoring the Predators 32–12 over the second and third quarters.
Hillsboro 62, Royall 31
Friday night Johnson again poured a game-high 18 points and had nine rebounds and five steals in a 62–31 regional semifinal victory over third-seeded Royall (8–16).
Hillsboro’s 1–3–1 zone press seemed to confuse the Panthers most of the night. The Tigers closed the first quarter on a 9–0 run and never looked back.
Shore added 14 points, 11 assists and six rebounds for the winners.
Hillsboro finished 16–9 overall after finishing fourth in the SBC at 8–6.
“I thought we had a great season overall,” said Egan. “I was very lucky with the girls I got in my first year. It was an unselfish group that worked hard everyday and was willing to learn. Based off various things I heard coming into Hillsboro, I believe we exceeded the expectations of most people. However, I know these girls were not satisfied where this season ended.”
Hillsboro will return almost its entire team, including all five starters, next year. Bridgett Madden is the lone outgoing senior.
“With the majority of our team coming back, I hope they use these small shortcomings as motivation for next year and are able to achieve all the goals that they set for themselves,” added Egan. “I really enjoyed coaching this team and am looking forward to continuing to build the program in Hillsboro.”