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Manhattan again reality for Trojans

Staff writer

Eight-tenths of a second was all that separated the Hillsboro Trojans boys’ basketball team from knocking off top-seeded Sacred Heart in the opening round of the 2017 Class 2A state tournament.

As the 2017-18 season starts, there’s nothing saying coach Darrel Knoll and the Trojans won’t stay in the Central Kansas League upper tier and make a return to Manhattan in early March.

Starting his 30th year at the helm, Knoll has the tools he needs to improve on last season’s 17-7 record.

Three-fifths of the Trojans’ starting lineup must be replaced, but with the return of senior off-guard Elias Werth and junior point guard Darian Ratzlaff, Knoll’s job is easier.

The duo combined for about 21 points and 6 rebounds a game a year ago, with Ratzlaff gaining first team all-CKL honors as a freshman and sophomore along with all-Class 2A honors.

The 6-foot Werth was selected to the CKL second team, and his quickness allows him to create offense from his defense, leading Hillsboro in steals.

It’ll get easier once the Trojans’ full cast heals, with injuries striking Hillsboro hard in summer and during the football season.

Junior Joe Knoll got injured playing football in late September, and senior Elliot Ollenburger hasn’t seen the court since he was a sophomore. Ollenburger missed the entire football season after a late-summer injury.

Knoll brings scoring and is deadly from outside as part of the Trojans’ frontcourt.

If the Trojans can survive a tough early season schedule long enough for the reinforcements to arrive, they’ll be in good shape.

That may be near Christmas break or at the turn of the year.

“My biggest concern is getting both Joe and Elliot, which will automatically add depth,” Darrel Knoll said. “With them out of the line-up, players who would have added depth will be playing in place of them, so we need to develop more depth sooner than anticipated.

“This should make us stronger down the stretch because we’ll have more guys with experience.”

Sophomore Caleb Potucek gave significant contributions as a freshman, and with his quickness, he’s able to harass opponents on defense in the backcourt.

Junior Caleb Rempel saw limited varsity action, but with the injuries may be thrown into the fire right away for support.

Junior newcomer Brooks Gardner provides depth in the backcourt, but he may not be full strength after sustaining a shoulder injury in late October.

Knoll’s post should be fine with the return of junior Wes Shaw. At 6-3 and 250 pounds, outmuscling Shaw on the backboards is no easy task.

Senior Brodie Rathbone and junior Avery Unruh join Shaw in the post.

“We do have a few players who should be able to step into those open roles,” Knoll said. “I anticipate a team with good chemistry, so we should be very competitive again this year.”

Last modified Nov. 30, 2017

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