Obioha, guards lead No. 1 Hoxie to big win over TMP
ELLIS, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Hoxie’s 7-foot senior Harlan Obioha has multiple Power 5 football offers. This fall, Obioha earned high-level accolades as a lineman. That included a Shrine Bowl berth, rare for an eight-man player. Still, Hoxie football coach Lance Baar noted Obioha had great hands. At times, the Indians used Obioha in the passing game en route to a state semifinal showing.
Overall, he caught four passes for 67 yards and a touchdown from junior quarterback Ashton Dowell. The teamwork has carried over to basketball, including a 69-58 win against Thomas More Prep-Marian in the Mid-Continent League tournament semifinals Friday at Ellis High School.
Often, Dowell stood well outside the 3-point line and lobbed the ball inside to Obioha. Normally three TMP players guarded the Indian senior, though he still finished with 24 points, 15 rebounds, five blocks and four assists.
“He is a special player,” TMP coach Bill Meagher said. “If that ball gets anywhere near him, he goes up and finds a way to make a catch, and some of those look NFL wide receiver catch to me. So, for one, it would be fun to play with a guy you can just do that to.”
All of Obioha’s points came in the final three quarters. Overall, he averages 24 points and 12 rebounds a game after a first team all-state winter last season. Obioha has several lower tier Division I basketball offers, including Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Grambling State.
“That’s what I tell college recruiters a lot is, ‘He has the size, which you can’t teach,’” Hoxie coach Jake Moss said. “And he is going to have to develop some other skills. But his passing and his vision are what sets him apart as a big man at the next level that’s going to be really valuable for some team – and it’s really valuable for us.”
Dowell, part of a highly experienced group of Hoxie guards that includes seniors Caden White and Gavin Tremblay and sophomore Brady Jones, averages four assists a contest. White finished with 14 points, Tremblay and Dowell added 10. Dowell delivered five assists, including Obioha’s first and last field goals.
“I would like to say that being a quarterback comes with that and helps me out, but going to practice, those are repped out,” Dowell said. “With him being 7-foot, it’s hard to miss. He can go up there and get it over defenders that aren’t quite as tall as him.”
Hoxie, ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, improved to 9-0 and bumped into Saturday’s tournament championship game versus WaKeeney. Hoxie defeated the Golden Eagles, 61-50, to win the Purple and Gold tournament on Dec. 12. TMP dropped to 7-3.
“For one, Harlan has really great hands for a big man,” Moss said. “A lot of times, they can’t catch those types of passes, and Ashton’s our quarterback. … When you have that type of ability, it’s tough for teams to guard.”
Last winter, the Indians finished 21-3 and reached the 2A state tournament with a quarterfinal loss to Garden Plain. Hoxie was a transitional member of the MCL in ’19-20 and was able to play in the league tournament. Hoxie took an upset loss, 42-40, to Phillipsburg in the tournament quarterfinals on Jan. 21, 2020, the program’s last regular season defeat.
On Jan. 12, Hoxie beat TMP, 60-54, at home when Obioha tallied 34 points versus the Monarchs’ man defense. On Monday, the Indians narrowly escaped another tournament quarterfinal defeat with a 53-51 win versus Hill City.
“We were lucky to get out of that one really,” Moss said.
On Friday, TMP elected to play zone. Six-foot-6 sophomore Dylan Werth and 6-1 senior Jackson Schulte guarded Obioha in the post. Whenever Obioha had the ball, 6-1 junior Jace Wentling came over to guard. TMP opened on an 8-0 run and led 13-6 after the first quarter. Hoxie was 1 of 14 from 3-point range in the first half.
Obioha’s first points came on two free throws early in the second quarter. Dowell assisted on the first basket off a lob with 4:05 left in the first half. Dowell let out a big exclamation when Obioha scored.
“Getting him involved in the scoring is huge for us,” Dowell said.
TMP led 20-14 before Hoxie tallied the half’s final 10 points. Obioha tallied five points off passes from sophomore Miles Baalman. The second one yielded a TMP foul and made free throw, too. Moss believed Hoxie was flat against HC and had a similar start Friday.
“We just weren’t hitting shots,” Moss said. “We got the ones we wanted, just didn’t knock them down. We took a lot of momentum into halftime, and it still felt like we were losing.”
Hoxie opened the second half on a 13-2 run that included just one Obioha assist. However, Jones and Tremblay both sunk treys.
“Because of the focus that’s on the big guy, people lose focus at how good their guards are, and it’s a veteran group that’s played in a lot of big games,” Meagher said. “And man, they’ve got an attack mentality, and they are strong, and they put you on the ropes, and I was just really impressed with them two games in a row.”
TMP had to return to a man defense and closed to 42-37 after three quarters. Schulte, one of Kansas’ more prolific shooters, led the Monarchs with 18. Senior Lucas Lang scored 15. Werth delivered a solid game versus Obioha with 10.
“That was working for us,” Meagher said of the zone. “The problem was, they made a few plays and got the score stretched. We felt like at that point we had to get out of the zone and go to man and just attack from that point on, but I liked what our guys did early in that, and I think that can be a really nice tool for us down the stretch.”
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