Top Ranked Hoxie pulls away for Purple & Gold Title
WaKEENEY, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Hoxie has taken great pride in three facets: winning the second half, playing very aggressive and getting to the rim. All three of those areas helped in a 61-50 road win Saturday versus WaKeeney-Trego in the Purple and Gold tournament championship game.
Hoxie, ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, finished 21-3 and advanced to the Class 2A state tournament last winter. The Indians lost its contests by a combined seven points, produced first team all-state center Harlan Obioha and returned all but one player from a depth-laden team. In coach Jake Moss’ eyes, Hoxie started to really believe it was a second half team in ’19-20.
This winter, the Indians trailed Norton, 26-24, in the season opener and came back to win, 53-42.
In the Purple and Gold quarterfinals versus Ness City, Hoxie was plus-10 in the first half, plus-11 in the second. On Saturday, Hoxie held a 25-23 halftime advantage.
The Golden Eagles took a 33-28 lead before the Indians tallied 14 straight points. Per coronavirus protocol, no fans were in attendance.
“That’s what they told themselves at halftime, ‘We are a second half team,’” Moss said. “‘Let’s go get this done.’”
Hoxie improved to 4-0 and continued its success. Many of the key players on last year’s and this season’s basketball team helped the football squad reach the state semifinals in the fall.
“It’s a really great year to be a Hoxie Indian, and it’s too bad the fans can’t see it, but hopefully soon,” senior Gavin Tremblay said.
WaKeeney-Trego, in its first Purple and Gold final since ’08, dropped to 3-1. Moss was very pleased with his team’s practice Friday before Saturday’s final.
“We really pride ourselves in practice on being really aggressive and getting to the rim, and yesterday was maybe the best practice of maybe the entire last two years, and that was just because we are aggressive and got to the rim,” Moss said.
In its semifinal win Friday versus Hodgeman County, the Golden Eagles shot 30 free throws. This time, Hoxie finished 11 of 16 from the foul line, and Trego was 5 of 6. The Indians finished plus-15 on the glass.
“We were just right there,” Trego coach Sean Dreiling said. “We just couldn’t get over that hump. Give Hoxie a lot of credit. They did what good teams do down the stretch. They made free throws. They got a little sloppy with the ball at times, but for the most part, they took care of the ball, and did what they are supposed to do, just the tough things down the stretch to win.”
The 6-foot-11 Obioha, who averaged more than 20 points and 10 rebounds as a junior, tallied 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Per team decision, he did not start, though entered with 5 minutes, 30 seconds left in the first quarter. He picked up two fouls by the 2:58 mark of the first. Obioha returned with 59.4 seconds left in the quarter after the Indians trailed 14-5.
“We started flat,” Moss said. “Guys are used to him in there.”
In the second, Tremblay scored off a pass from Obioha, his longtime friend dating back to elementary school days. At that point, Obioha lived in Quinter and played with Tremblay on fourth/fifth grade MAYB.
“We just formed the bond real early on,” Tremblay said. “He didn’t know anybody besides the traveling team.”
Obioha, who has Division I offers in football and basketball, arrived to Hoxie for high school. He has picked up first team all-state honors in both sports.
“I am pretty much the reason he actually came to Hoxie, so that’s pretty great,” Tremblay said. “Because he used to just come over and play, and then he was going to move to Buhler or Hoxie, and we finally got him to come to Hoxie. He’s just (came) right in like he has been here all his life.”
Then, Tremblay found White for an assist, and delivered back-to-back treys. The second one, with 5:47 left in the first half, gave Hoxie a 20-17 lead.
“White stepped up for them, and a couple other guys stepped up,” Dreiling said.
White made the steal, and passed to sophomore Brady Jones, who found Tremblay for the basket. Jones didn’t play football after Oct. 23 because of a shoulder injury and was late starting basketball. Tremblay finished with 14 points, White 13.
“Our guys really came alive really in the second quarter,” Moss said.
Junior Ashton Dowell tallied nine, including a key stretch in the 14-0 run. He scored on a scoop shot, then, made a steal and an assist on a basket for junior Cade Gourley. Dowell gave Hoxie a 42-33 lead after three quarters when he sunk a half-court buzzer-beater.
“There’s more to the team that just (Obioha) for sure, and that what makes us so tough,” Moss said. “…We hit some timely shots, and had some people really step up, and play a nice game for us.”
Overall, WaKeeney made nine treys, three more than Hoxie. Senior Kobi Shubert tallied 19 points, and junior Charlie Russell, tasked with guarding Obioha, finished with 11. However, the Golden Eagles went 3 of 15 on treys from midway third quarter on; WaKeeney missed several wide-open looks that would have narrowed the gap.
“It’s a weird issue that we have been facing all year,” Dreiling said of the misses. “I know it’s really early, we are only four games in, but we are a good shooting team. I mean, we are not the Golden State Warriors or anything like that. But we have a lot of guys that are capable of making 3s, and a couple guys, three or four guys, that are good shooters.”
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