Trego advances to home tourney finals, seeks signature win vs #1 Hoxie
WaKEENEY, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - WaKeeney-Trego fifth-year coach Sean Dreiling had a message for his team at intermission of Friday’s home contest versus Hodgeman County. At that point, the Golden Eagles had never trailed all first half though held just a two-point lead.
WaKeeney eventually won 48-40 in the Purple and Gold tournament semifinals and continued its improvement under Dreiling. The Golden Eagles are into the Purple and Gold championship game for the first time since ’08. That year, WaKeeney beat La Crosse in the finals.
Last winter, the Golden Eagles finished 12-10, the program’s first winning season since ’08-09. WaKeeney returned 59 percent of its scoring and 64 percent of its rebounding from a squad that was 2-5 in games within seven points. Junior Charlie Russell collected Class 2A all-state honorable mention honors. However, the Golden Eagles are outside of the top-10 2A rankings.
“We should have a giant chip on our shoulder,” Dreiling said to his players. “Because we think we’re good, but nobody else really has eyes on us – or at least we don’t feel like their eyes are on us. We want that, but at the same time, we’ve got to be about it. We talk about ‘well done is better than well said.’ So that’s kind of our goal.”
On Saturday, WaKeeney will have its opportunity to gain statewide recognition when it faces Hoxie for the tournament title. Start time is 7:30 p.m. The Indians, a returning state qualifier, are playing in the WaKeeney tournament for the first time after a long run in the Quinter tournament.
Hoxie is ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, and features 6-foot-11 senior Harlan Obioha, who has Division I offers in football and basketball. This marks the first matchup between the teams since Dec. 15, 2015. Dreiling said reaching the final “means a lot,” but the Golden Eagles are “still hungry for more.”
“We feel like we are a good team, but again we can talk about it all we want,” Dreiling said. “We’ve got to go do it. We have got to be disciplined, and I don’t think you saw four quarters of discipline tonight. I think you saw it in spurts.”
Even in the second half Friday, WaKeeney never relinquished the lead. HC tied the score at 26, and the Golden Eagles led 34-32 after three quarters. Russell finished 2 of 11 from the field, though contributed in all facets.
He delivered 13 points, including 9 of 15 from the foul line. Russell collected three steals, two rebounds, two assists and two charges. WaKeeney shot 30 free throws, twice as many as Hodgeman County. HC went 5 of 15 from the foul line for first-year coach Gustavo Flores, the former Pawnee Heights coach.
“We did a pretty decent job of trying to slow him down on offense,” Flores said. “Definitely underestimated his defense, and his ability to clog some holes and stop the ball. Give it up to Sean on the coaching.”
Freshman Owen Reece paced the Longhorns with 13 points. The Golden Eagles improved to 3-0, and HC dropped to 2-1.
“It’s difficult when we are not hitting free throws,” Flores said.
Russell opened up the fourth quarter with a pair of free throws, and then blocked a shot. He bumped the lead to 38-32 when he stole the ball at midcourt and went in a layup.
“This year, we are trying to focus on him playing better defense, being more active, but not picking up stupid fouls,” Dreiling said.
Then, Russell found junior Cole Feldt, his cousin, for a trey. Feldt delivered a nice performance with a team-high 16 points. Feldt, an avid basketball fan, showcased several ball handling moves, including when he drove inside, faked a pass and tallied a layup. Dreiling calls him a leader on and off the court.
“Cole Feldt is a heckuva player,” Dreiling said. “He’s a kid that every coach in the high school level or even the college level wants to have on his team, because he lives the game. He’s a big Duke basketball fan, and he watches basketball at all levels, and he’s texting me at 11 o’clock at night watching.”
WaKeeney received key play from its supporting cast. Senior Trevyne Brown would have been the sixth man last winter, but missed all season with a knee injury. He delivered three points off the bench. Junior Tyler Malsam finished with eight, and junior Miles Moden tallied three, all in the fourth quarter. The trio combined for 30 points all last winter.
“We believe we can be good,” Dreiling said. “But it is really nice to see their success on the court.”
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