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Hugoton boys survive 3A battle against Hoisington

Published: Mar. 5, 2021 at 11:17 PM CST
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LARNED, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Hugoton’s off night was offset by Hoisington’s bad second half. The Cardinals led 32-25 at the half but foul trouble and offensive struggles allowed Hugoton to take the lead on the final shot of the third quarter. The Eagles used 34 free throws in the game to hang on 52-47. Hugoton, now winner of 20 straight, is the lone team to beat Lakin this year, and the Eagles again draw the Broncs in Saturday’s sub-state title game.

But it almost didn’t happen. Hoisington led 13-9 after one quarter and pushed the gap to seven points by halftime, even with senior guard Mason Haxton sitting for much of the second quarter with foul trouble.

Then the Eagle defense took over. Hoisington’s potent offense went 0-for-10 from the floor in the third quarter, netting just a pair of free throws. Hugoton fared little better with just a pair of field goals from senior Haden Daharsh. The Eagles average about 10 3-point makes a night but sophomore Carson Bennett connected on the lone trey of the evening. It mattered, sending Hugoton into the fourth-quarter with a 37-34 edge.

“We haven’t shot the ball this poorly all season, or even last season with this group of seniors,” Hugoton coach CJ Korf said. “We have two kids who shoot over 40 percent from three and didn’t hit a single one tonight. I hate do say it, but they don’t do you any favors when you can’t come shoot halftime of the game before and you don’t get much of a warm-up. We’re in a gym we’ve never played in before and I think that really matters. I understand why KSHSAA is doing what they’re doing but, at the same time, it affects teams.”

Eagle senior Sawyer Harper had a monster game all night. In the fourth quarter he scored eight of his 30 points and grabbed six of his 13 rebounds. More important, his constant assault on the rim put Hoisington in foul trouble for much of the second half.

“We are a well-balanced team,” said Korf. “We have four, almost five guys who average double figures a night. It seems like all year long we’ve had two guys in double figures and maybe the rest of the team isn’t. The next night it can be two totally different guys. Some nights we have all four in double figures. Sawyer’s capable of doing that. He was determined not to lose this game tonight and it showed.”

Two Harper free throws put Hugoton ahead 43-29 before Cardinal senior Ryan Woydziak swished his second trey of the night for a 43-42 score with 3:45 remaining. Hugoton scored the next four points and never looked back.

“It was a defensive struggle on both sides,” Korf said. “I talked to our kids about just how proud I was of the heart they showed, winning a game when they weren’t playing well offensively. Offense has been our trademark all year. We’ve had a lot of games in the 70s. We stepped it up defensively in the second half and found a way to win. They’re a very good team. I hate to see either one of us lose a game like this with so many seniors and so many good players.”

Haxton scored the first eight points for Hoisington. Senior Drew Nicholson took over late in the first quarter with five points. He scored 18 of his 23 points in the first half and also grabbed 14 rebounds in the loss. Haxton finished with 12 points, Woydziak scored eight points, and senior Chase Robinson grabbed 11 rebounds to go with two points. Hoisington ends its season at 17-5.

Harper scored all nine Eagle points in the opening quarter and accounted for 16 of his team’s first 25 points. Daharsh finished strong with nine points, and Wyatt Angell and Bennett each finished with five points.

Hugoton takes a 20-game win streak into Saturday’s sub-state championship against Lakin. The Eagles defeated the Broncs in the final week of the regular season.

“You just have to take care of the ball when you play them,” Korf said. “They’ll go on their little runs but if we can take care of the ball I think we’ll be okay.”

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