Hileman sparks Chieftains into semifinals
Junior lifts THS with defense; Pistora scored team-high 13 points
Salina Tonganoxie's engine was missing a spark plug Thursday in the Class 4A state quarterfinals.
Luckily for THS, Tracie Hileman was the missing part that got the Chieftain motor revving during the third quarter and ultimately propelled them into the semifinals.
Trailing midway through the third quarter, THS assistant coach Jon Jacques challenged the Chieftain players.
"Coach Jacques said we needed a defensive spark, and I said 'OK,'" Hileman said.
Sure, Hileman's play ignited the defense, but it was an assist to Pistora for a close-range bucket on the offensive end that got the Tonganoxie crowd back in the game. Hileman followed that with another bank shot - after she followed her own miss. Finally, still in the third, Hileman laid in another bucket and was fouled on the play. She wasn't able to convert on the old-fashioned three-point play, but her four points were good enough to push Tonganoxie forward into the fourth quarter with the momentum and the lead.
"That just came with the defensive sparks," said Hileman, who finished the game with those crucial four points.
THS coach Randy Kraft took notice of Hileman's play.
"She was a big lift," Kraft said. "Her defense was great."
In the final quarter, Tonganoxie was able to pull ahead and Abilene (20-4) was forced to foul late.
Tonganoxie pulled away with a 45-36 win and advanced to the state semifinals.
THS improved to 23-1 and will play again at 6:30 p.m. Friday against either Columbus or Colby. Both teams were 21-2 entering the quarterfinal game.
Pistora led Tonganoxie in scoring with 13, while Elizabeth Baska chipped in 10.
Ostermann led Abilene in scoring with 12.