Haven High's girls tuned up for a showdown for the Central Kansas League basketball championship by overpowering Nickerson 57-20 Tuesday night.
The Wildcats (15-3, 6-1 CKL) will play co-leader Hillsboro (16-2, 6-1) at home Friday with the league title at stake. A victory would likely give the Wildcats a share of league title with Hesston and the top record in the Hillsboro Class 3A substate.
“Hillsboro is a really tough team, but we’ve got our shot to get the league title and the best record in the Hillsboro substate,” said Haven coach Dwight Roper. “I was really pleased that we came out focused like we wanted to tonight.”
Haven executed superbly offensively and defensively, roaring to a 25-4 lead after one quarter. The Wildcats converted 9 of 18 field goals and 5 of 5 free throws with no turnovers in the first period. The Wildcats converted several Nickerson turnovers into easy transition baskets.
“We did everything we wanted. We came out and competed at a high level,” Roper said. “Everyone was playing with defensive intensity and we were doing a great job of sharing the basketball tonight. We forced turnovers and took advantage with fast-break points.”
The Wildcats played aggressive man-to-man and trapped effectively to force turnovers.
“We’re a good man-to-man team and we’re so short, we don’t want to let the ball inside,” Roper said. “We’re able to use our quickness on defense.”
By halftime, Haven led 40-9 behind 13 of 32 field goal shooting and 9 of 11 free throws. Ten Wildcats scored points as they showed solid teamwork and athletic ability.
Nickerson point guard Paige Stewart continued to compete at a high level with 12 points off 4 of 5 field goals and 4 of 5 free throws. She also had several assists, in her addition to her defense and ballhandling against Haven's pressure.
Alex Parker had an assist and Allison Evans made a 3-point goal.
Nickerson made 7 of 30 field goals and committed 25 turnovers against Haven's aggressive man-to-man defense.
Nickerson's girls dropped to 1-17 overall and 1-6 in the Central Kansas League.
"Tuesday's game was a tough one for us because we played an athletic team that didn't make very many errors," said Nickerson coach Charles Smalling. "Six of the eight girls playing Tuesday were battling the flu, but they mustered enough energy to play as hard as they could."
Smalling credited Haven for superb execution at both ends.
"Coach Dwight Roper and his girls did a good job of taking us out of our offense and they shot the ball extremely well," Smalling said. "We made some adjustments that helped us put a few more points on the board but it just wasn't enough."
Seniors Erin Nuss and Alex Parker were honored during their final home basketball game.
Nickerson travels to Kingman Friday.