Hillsborough High School is the consummate girls’ basketball team.
This winter, the Raiders have used literally every varsity player to win games.
Elissa Nsenkyire and Morgan Hodorowski score in every way. Peyton Quackenbush drills three pointers. Lisa Ross, Grace O’Connor and Allison Watson defend and rebound.
We could keep going. There are about four other players who contribute, too.
Hillsborough used this deep rotation to earn the No. 7 seed in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament.
The Raiders will be the host to a first-round game on Feb. 25 at 7 p.m.
They will need to play like the consummate team to beat a talented No. 10 seed, Freehold Township High School. The Patriots feature a 6-2 unicorn in Hannah Orloff, a dynamic creator in Tanya Elsbree and a deadeye marksman in Kaylie Elsbree.
“We’ve gotten a little bit out of every player. We had to get that, and we’ll need to again,” said Hillsborough coach Ian Progin. “I haven’t seen Freehold Township but I know they are good. I’m going to scout them and figure out what we need to do.”
Progin’s team was at its best during a six-game winning streak from late December to early January. The Raiders were winning with lockdown defense, holding all six opponents to less than 50 points.
Hillsborough was using its depth and versatility to confuse opponents.
“If the 2-3 zone is doing well, we’ll stay in it. If man works, we’ll utilize that. We have even pressed at times when we feel like we can take advantage of that,” Progin said. “It all depends.”
“It’s about the opponent and what we can do to give us the best chance to win,” Progin added.
When it plays Freehold Township, Hillsborough will have to shut down Orloff, who scores more than 17 points per game.
But the Raiders are ready. They dealt with tall, skilled standouts all year in the Skyland Conference, including Franklin High School’s Diamond Miller, a 6-2 University of Maryland recruit.
“We have defended players who can shoot and drive,” Progin said. “We may have to try to play different defenses against Orloff.”
The Freehold Township date looms as the biggest one left on Hillsborough’s schedule. But it’s not the only game remaining.
Hillsborough is also slated to be host to a first-round game in the Somerset County Tournament. The 10th-seeded Raiders will welcome 15th-seeded Manville High School on Feb. 14 at 7 p.m.
The Somerset County Tournament is loaded at the top with powerful programs, like Franklin, Rutgers Preparatory School and Bound Brook High School. But Progin likes Hillsborough’s early draw.
“Our first and second round matchups, it’s realistic,” Progin said. “But with Franklin and Rutgers Prep, it’s going to be tough to win it all.”
Even if it doesn’t win a trophy, Hillsborough can still take a step forward this postseason. At 9-10, the Raiders are three victories away from setting a new standard for the Progin era.
Two years ago, in Progin’s first season, the Raiders won nine games. They won five combined in the two seasons before the coach took over.
Then last winter, Hillsborough won 11 games, including a first round upset of top-seeded East Brunswick High School, 45-41, in the sectional tournament.
“We’ve made progress in this program. We won nine games the first year, which hadn’t been done for over a century on the girls side,” Progin said. “Now we can achieve our highest win total.”
“Hopefully it can keep going into next year,” he added. “The future looks bright.”