HILLSBORO — The Hesston High School girls’ basketball team saw a furious comeback fall short to third-ranked (KBCA, Class 4A, Division II) Clay Center 44-42 Saturday in the championship game of the Hillsboro Trojan Classic.

Hesston trailed most of the game, but was able to get in the lead in the second half.

“We played with much better composure in the second half,” Hesston coach Matt Richardson said. “We did a lot more of what we wanted to do in the second half. They took us out of what we wanted to do in the first half. It was either feat or famine (with defense). If we weren’t getting a rushed shot by them, they were getting a layup. They had a couple offensive rebounds that they turned into opportunities from the free throw line. We played hard in the second half. We played with much better attitude and we had much better team play.”

Clay Center, 8-1, was led by Syd Callaway with 13 points, followed by freshman Clara Edwards with 12.

Hesston, 9-4, was led by Elise Kaiser with 15 points and Kaily Jo Ince with 13.

Clay Center was 15 of 28 from the free throw line, eight of 14 in the second half. Hesston was eight of 15 from the line, five of 10 in the second half. Fouls were 25-14 against Hesston.

Leading 4-2, Hesston gave up an 11-0 run aided by Swather turnovers. Edwards hit one of two free throws with .9 seconds left in the quarter. Hesston opened the second quarter with a 6-0 run, four points off turnovers. An Ince three-point play got Hesston to within two with 5:04 left in the quarter, but the Swathers didn’t score again for the rest of the half, trailing 23-13.

Hesston was called for 11 fouls in the first half to six for Clay Center despite the Tigers being the more physical team. Hesston finished the half five of 14 shooting, while Clay Center was five of 17. Hesston was outscored 9-3 from the line.

Hesston opened the third quarter with an 8-0 run. Hesston extended the run after a Tiger time out on a Kylie Klassen three-point play with 3:16 left in the period, putting the Swathers in the lead. Clay Center came back with one of two free throws and an Edwards trey to get back in the lead. A Calloway putback with 12 seconds left put Cay Center up 31-30 at the end of the period.

Hesston got up 35-33 early in the fourth quarter, but gave up a 6-0 run. Hesston opened the fourth quarter one of five from the line. Clay Center was five of six in the same span. Hesston pulled within two on an Ince layup with 1:08 in regulation. Hailey Franson countered with two free throws for the Tigers.

Kaiser hit a layup with 21 seconds to play, followed by a Swather time out. Franson missed two free throws with 11 seconds left. Hesston got the rebound and called the time out with 9.8 seconds to play. The Swathers got into its own offensive end and called its final time out with 5.3 seconds to play. Hesston turned the ball over with 1.8 seconds to play, giving Clay Center the win.

Of Hesston’s four losses, all were to ranked teams and three were by two points or less.

“We lost to Garden Plain by one and Kingman by two and now this one,” Richardson said.

Hesston hosts top-ranked (Class 3A) Haven Jan. 30. Haven hosts its own tournament this week.

“They have a very good tournament this week,” Richardson said. “They have a very good team. They are well coached. I think this is a team where we can go forward from and get some growth.”

HESSTON (9-4) — Dunlavy 3-5 0-0 7, Weber 0-0 0-0 0, Klassen 1-1 1-1 3, Kaiser 6-19 2-2 15, Vogt 0-0 0-0 0, Ince 5-12 3-4 13, Richardson 1-4 1-2 4, Schilling 0-3 0-4 0, Duerksen 0-1 1-2 1, Enge 0-0 0-0 0, TOTALS 16-45 2-8 42.

CLAY CENTER (8-1) — Franson 0-4 4-6 4, Craig 0-0 0-0 0, Ferguson 2-4 1-1 5, Mullin 0-8 2-4 2, Callaway 4-8 5-8 13, Hammel 2-9 3-4 8, Edwards 4-12 2-2 12, TOTALS 12-45 3-8 44.

Hesston;4;9;17;12;—42

Clay Ctr.;13;10;8;13;—44

Total fouls — Hes. 25, CC 14. Technical fouls — none. Fouled out — Hes.: Dunlavy. CC: Callaway. 3-point shooting — Hes. 2-8 (Dunlavy 1-2, Kaiser 1-6), CC 3-8 (Franson 0-1, Mullin 0-1, Hammel 1-4, Edwards 2-2). Rebounds — Hes. 36 (Schilling 8), CC 36 (Ferguson 6). Assists — Hes. 3 (Dunlavy 2), CC 6 (Mullin 3). Turnovers — Hes. 20 (Ince 7), CC 14 (Hammel 4). Blocked shots — Hes. 3 (Ince 3), CC 3 (Edwards 3). Steals — Hes. 7 (Dunlavy 1, Weber 1, Kaiser 1, Ince 1, Richardson 1, Duerksen 1, Enge 1), CC 12 (Ferguson 3, Mullin 3, Edwards 3).

Friday’s game

HOLCOMB — Wren 5, Sapien 7, Rupp 2, Ruda 4, Sleep 4, Novak 2.

HESSTON — Dunlavy 2, Kaiser 17, Ince 16, Schilling 4, Duerksen 2.

Holcomb;6;4;4;10;—24

Hesston;9;12;13;7;—41