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State title hopes alive for Trojan boys' basketball

Staff writer

A ticket for a second consecutive trip to the Class 2A boys’ state basketball tournament at Manhattan was within reach a year ago for the Trojans.

But it was not to be.

Inman pulled off a 53-49 shocker in Hillsboro’s own sub-state final, ending the Trojans’ season at 17-6.

That was then, this is now.

Entering his 31st season at the Trojan helm, a second trip to Manhattan in the last three years is very much still a reality for Darrel Knoll.

He has the artillery, depth, and experience to make a return.

“I think we will be very competitive again this year,” Knoll said. “We have good experience and depth, we should be able to do well as long as we play together.

“We are quick and play solid defense and we’ve got the ability to score from multiple positions with several different players. I anticipate a team with good chemistry.”

That’s never been too much of an issue for a Knoll-coached team, a key factor in how he’s amassed an impressive 508-191 record during his tenure.

Figuring to play a huge part in the Trojans’ success for the final year is three-time all-state honoree, point guard Darian Ratzlaff.

The 6-foot Ratzlaff can sting opponents both attacking the basket as well as from outside, averaging 15 points a game while frustrating opponents on defense.

Providing stability and playing his third year of varsity in Knoll’s usual potent backcourt is junior off-guard Caleb Potucek.

An all-Central Kansas League honorable mention selection a year ago, Potucek’s cat-quick and can disrupt an opponent’s offense with hard-nosed defense.

Potucek also is dangerous shooting both inside as well as out.

Joe Knoll watched his entire junior season from the sidelines, courtesy of an early football injury.

The 6-2 sniper Joe had a big part in the Trojans’ last state qualifying team, both with his offense as well as on defense.

Expect Joe to shake off the rust and return to his 2017 form, giving his father a third- or fourth-scorer from either inside or out.

Caleb Rempel came on strong a year ago as a junior with some big minutes in tight games.

Rempel’s effective shooting and quick defense leaves him another who’ll challenge for a starting spot in Knoll’s rotation.

Rounding out the trio of returning starters is 6-3 250-pound senior Wes Shaw, an honorable mention selection both as All-2A and as CKL.

Few, if any, can outmuscle Shaw inside, a big reason why his seven rebounds per game average leads the Trojans.

Shaw, along with Ratzlaff, give Hillsboro a 1-2 punch with Shaw averaging 12 points a game.

Likely to join Shaw inside is senior Brooks Gardner.

Despite being a tad undersized at 5-11, Gardner makes up for it with fierce defense, rebounding, and great energy.

Joe Knoll wasn’t the only one who missed his junior year due to a football injury. Jorge Hanschu did, too.

Hanschu’s quickness was on display during Hillsboro’s magical football season, and his athleticism makes him effective from anywhere on the floor and provide depth.

Avery Unruh gives the Trojans’ another space eater inside, using his frame for high percentage shots and play tough on the glass.

Projected to finish near the top of the always-nasty CKL, Hillsboro will again open the year as one Class 2A’s top 10 programs.

Defending Class 3A champion Halstead returns enough to be chosen as the league favorite and the Trojans’ problems with pest Hesston are a yearly occurrence.

The Trojans could get a good indication of where they stand the second game of the season as part of the Moundridge preseason tournament in a rematch with Inman.

The Teutons have been ranked as high as second in Class 2A and return 6-7 inside presence Mason Thiessen.

Last modified Nov. 29, 2018

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