High school basketball has tipped off even as its future remains up in the air, but Hillsboro High coach Darrel Knoll isn’t worried about the team’s ability to focus.
He just wants to make sure the Trojans stay positive no matter what is thrown at them.
“A big challenge is being able to deal with adversity,” he said. “Being able to handle change effectively will be important for us as we navigate this season.”
Hillsboro’s four returning starters had a lesson in crushing disappointment on March 12 when an outbreak of COVID-19 forced Kansas State High School Activities Association to cancel championship play.
Hours earlier, the Trojans had been celebrating a thrilling 57-51 upset of top-seeded Pratt Skyline in the fourth quarter, which put them on track for their first state title in 20 years.
“We felt we were hitting our stride,” Knoll remembers. “We were playing well, so it would have been really nice to finish out.”
Eight months later, the team still being stalked by a virus that forced several on the team to quarantine.
Hillsboro’s school board voted to extend Thanksgiving vacation through Dec. 1 and the high school is now on a half-hybrid schedule.
Knoll has been holding “virtual practices” through Google Meet to try and get the team in shape.
“It’s not the same as being on the court, where you can work on timing, spacing, and offense,” he said. “It makes it tougher to be as good as you can be.”
Hillsboro struggled against Sterling with an opening 48 to 43 loss at home. The Trojans were only able to practice on the court twice before Friday’s game — but Knoll said all area teams are dealing with the same uncertainty.
“We need to continue to do the best we can do,” he said. “That way we can feel good about our results at the end of the day.”
A roster of experienced starters including Breckyn Ratzlaff, Matt Potucek, Dillon Boldt, and Tristan Reed will provide needed leadership this winter.
Frank Wichert, Carson Linnens, Duncan Duell, Grayson Ratzlaff, Jamari Harris, and Nate Hein will round out the team nicely, as well, he said.
“We have good quickness and we have depth,” he said. “Those things will be real strengths.”
The biggest goal this year is to get better after every game,” he said. “Obviously we want to get back to state.”