Hoisington advances to Winter Jam finals with comeback win
WICHITA, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Peaking at No. 4 in the Class 3A rankings following an overtime loss to top-ranked Hays (5A), Hoisington was an unlikely No. 3 seed in its own Winter Jam Tournament. Yet there the Cardinals sat in Friday’s semifinal, trailing Ellsworth by nine points in the third quarter.
Hoisington overcame a 15-point deficit in just four minutes against Nickerson a week earlier. Friday, the Cards were able to level the score by the end of the third and ride that momentum to a 50-46 win.
“What’s really nice is we’ve been able to play two really nice teams in this tournament in Cimarron and Ellsworth,” said Hoisington coach Kyle Haxton. “You’re not getting better playing the weaker teams in the tournament. Watching film, we knew there were going to be three really good teams to beat. We’ll have the opportunity to play all three of them and take care of business.
“Ellinwood will be no easy task tomorrow, but we’ll have to come in with a good game plan, get the kids bought in, and be ready to work.”
Ellsworth took a 30-22 lead at the halftime buzzer on a basket from senior Luke Sharp. Senior Trey Anderson took a steal coast to coast early in the third quarter to extend the Bearcat lead to 34-25. The Cardinals entered the night averaging nearly 70 points a game but struggled to that point.
“We were trying to watch two guys play offense,” Haxton said. “We had three guys watching (seniors Mason Haxton and Drew Nicholson) execute. We were struggling passing the ball, we were struggling handling the ball. I just had to remind the guys at halftime we have five great basketball court at all times. All of us have to play a part in this.”
Hoisington turned up the defense with a Chase Robinson steal resulting in a basket and foul from Mason Haxton. A Ryan Woydziak takeaway netted an inbounds basket from Bralen Thompson. Finally, sophomore Leyton Haxton scored off his own steal to give the Cards a 38-36 lead in the final seconds of the third.
“We were playing man-to-man and they were just trying to eat the clock because they had the lead,” Coach Haxton said. “It was probably smart on their part. We did what we had to do in the last couple games trying to extend pressure and it worked out for us. I was pleased with how the guys responded.”
The teams battled back and forth early in the final frame, with Ellsworth taking a 43-42 lead on a Braden Schulte trey. Nicholson answered with a pair of free throws to give the Cards the lead for good with 2:47 to play.
The Bearcats remained in the game until the final seconds. Schulte capped a big 21-point night with a pair of free throws with 9.9 ticks left. Nicholson grabbed the rebound on the final miss and made both of his free throws to ice the game with 7.6 seconds to play.
Hoisington led 10-8 after one quarter. Mason Haxton and Nicholson combined for all 10 Cardinal points in the frame. Schulte hit a pair of threes and scored 11 points in second quarter, and Anderson added seven points as the Bearcats built their halftime lead.
Schulte tied for game-high honors with 21 points. Anderson added 13 points, and Avery Haxton finished with 10 points and nine boards.
Mason Haxton, closing in on 1,000 career points, paced the Cardinals with 21 points. Nicholson finished with 15 points and six boards, and Leyton Haxton scored seven points.
Hoisington, winners of four of the last five Winter Jam titles, will face Ellinwood in Saturday’s championship game. The Eagles, behind strong play from four sophomores, have just one loss on the season to No. 10 Ellis (2A). The top-seeded Cimarron girls will play No. 3 seed Victoria in the girls’ finale.
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