Top ranked Hoxie displays offensive efficiency to win MCL tourney

Hoxie defeated Trego County 70-54 in the MCL Tournament Championship Game in WaKeeney on...
Hoxie defeated Trego County 70-54 in the MCL Tournament Championship Game in WaKeeney on Saturday, January 23, 2021. (Photo: Everett Royer, J Royer)
Published: Jan. 25, 2021 at 3:12 PM CST
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ELLIS, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Hoxie has spent significant practice time honing its offense the last two weeks. Earlier this winter, teams generally played man-to-man against the Indians and their star 7-foot center Harlan Obioha. Recently, Hoxie has seen varied looks.

The work yielded a highly efficient two games Friday and Saturday in the Mid-Continent League tournament. On Saturday, Hoxie pulled away to beat WaKeeney-Trego, 70-54, to capture the MCL title at Ellis High School. Hoxie, ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, committed just seven turnovers.

“Teams will switch up how they guard us,” Hoxie coach Jake Moss said. “We’ve kind of worked through enough stuff if they are doing man, this is what we are doing. If we are going zone, we are going here. And I think our guys are just getting really comfortable with that, and hopefully we can continue to build.”

On Friday, Hoxie used several big runs to defeat Thomas More Prep-Marian, 69-58, in the semifinals. It marked the Indians’ second meeting versus WaKeeney and TMP this winter.

“We are getting a lot more efficient on offense,” Moss said.

On Dec. 12, Hoxie beat Trego, 61-50, to win the Purple and Gold tournament title. On Jan. 12, the Indians held off TMP, 60-54. TMP changed its defense from the first to second meeting. WaKeeney incorporated man, zone and press.

“For us that was kind of a struggle last year where this year, we are actually scoring off of that when teams press us, so it’s nice to see that part of our game evolve,” Moss said.

Obioha, who did not play varsity as a freshman, cleared 1,000 career points Saturday. He tallied 34 points and 17 rebounds, including a pair of dunks. Trego limited him to 15 points and 11 rebounds in the December meeting. Obioha delivered 24 points and 15 rebounds against TMP.

Overall, Hoxie shot 51 percent (27 of 53) from the field. The Indians were 8 of 19 (42 percent) from 3-point range, and 8 of 10 from the foul line.

“We just work so good together as a team,” senior Caden White said.

As well, junior Ashton Dowell finished with 12 points and five assists. The 6-foot-3 White had a steal that yielded his first-ever dunk. Junior Charlie Russell paced Trego with 12 points. Hoxie improved to 10-0, Trego is 9-3.

“They play really hard, and they were locked tonight,” Trego coach Sean Dreiling said. “They went through a few stretches where we got some stops, but credit to them, they did a great job making shots from the perimeter. Obviously, we wanted to make them prove that, but then I think we got stuck trying to do both after they hit shots. And then, Harlan going for 34, and them making shots is just too much for us to overcome.”

Hoxie opened 1 of 14 from 3-point range in the first half against TMP. The Indians continued to give sophomore Brady Jones encouragement. Hoxie went 2 of 4 in the second half. Versus WaKeeney, Jones made two early treys in a 14-0 run. Jones, who missed a significant chunk of football with a shoulder injury, finished with 10 points.

“He has been streaky, but last night he struggled in the first half, and at halftime, we just said Brady we believe in you 100 percent, keep firing, and all our guys did, too,” Moss said. “They said, ‘Yeah, if we are kicking out to you and you are open, do not even hesitate to shoot it.’”

WaKeeney led 17-16 after the first quarter and held a 26-24 advantage midway through the second. Then, Hoxie went on an 11-0 run to lead 35-26 at halftime. Similar to TMP, Trego had trouble slowing Hoxie’s offensive bursts.

“A lot of it comes to our play in practice,” Moss said. “We set a high tempo in practice, and the best thing about it is, we have good practice partners. We have got 10 guys that can get up and down the floor and really contest each other everyday. Sometimes we can score in bunches.”

White delivered his signature play with 5:30 left in the third quarter. White perfectly read a pass and intercepted.

“My team was down,” White said. “They were kind of making that comeback there for a little bit. Me, I feel like I am a spark to this team.”

He went down the court unguarded, rose up and dunked. Moss said White was “really, really close” last year.

“That was impressive,” Moss said. “I think he was running on full adrenaline.”

“I will probably never be able to do that again,” White added.

White’s play helped Hoxie lead, 53-39, after three quarters. After the game, Hoxie took a celebratory picture of its first MCL tournament title. This marked Hoxie’s second year playing in the tournament after it was a transitional league member last winter. Obioha also held up a sign commemorating his 1,000 points.

“We have been working on it,” White said. “We go everyday with hustle. It’s hard somedays. We have bad days in practice but coming in here showing who really Hoxie is – I would rather be playing up in this MCL league, make us better.”

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