WaKeeney girls pull away for win in fourth meeting vs. Hoxie
WaKEENEY, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Since December, two themes emerged for Mid-Continent League girls’ basketball. First, the league was historically strong and balanced. Second, squads were often going to play each other multiple times with varying results and scoring margins, including WaKeeney-Trego and Hoxie.
The squads first met in the Purple and Gold tournament championship on Dec. 12, a 22-point WaKeeney victory. They next played in the MCL tournament, and Hoxie delivered a four-point upset. The Golden Eagles won the regular season league meeting by 10 on Feb. 9. Hoxie limited WaKeeney to 69 total points in the latter two.
On Friday, the teams had its fourth contest in the Class 2A WaKeeney sub-state semifinal. Hoxie held a one-point lead with 2:35 left in the third quarter. However, WaKeeney finished the quarter on a 10-0 run and delivered a 57-48 victory.
In a rarity, all four games between the two occurred at Trego’s gymnasium. It marked the most points the Golden Eagles scored versus Hoxie this year. The Indians mainly ran a triangle-and-two junk defense in the second half.
“You see a team that many times, they have a game plan, too,” Hoxie coach Jared Dowell said. “We ran three different defenses on them all night. They knew what might be coming, and they did a great job executing.”
WaKeeney has its highly experienced quartet of seniors Lili Shubert, Tillie Malinowsky and Emma Day and junior point guard Madison Walt. The Golden Eagles have won 11 in a row.
“We rely on their experience,” Trego coach Shelby Crawford said. “They are just tough, tough competitors, and the last half of the season, we have been in tight games, and they have that, ‘they are not going to beat us’ mentality.”
Shubert has cleared 1,500 points, 600 rebounds and 250 assists in her career. She finished with a game-high 29 points, along with seven rebounds. Walt delivered six rebounds, four assists, three steals, two points and a block.
“Everything we do goes through her,” Crawford said. “I know Lili gets the stats, but Madison gets it started.”
Sophomore Kaylee Walt tallied 11 points, more than double her season average. Early in the contest, Walt landed on a Hoxie player’s foot and kind of tweaked her ankle.
“What I was most impressed with in the end was Kaylee Walt,” Crawford said.
Kaylee Walt was in foul trouble early, though had some key drives and sank a big 3-pointer in the third quarter in a key momentum shift. Crawford is in his first year as head coach after three seasons as assistant.
“We have never had a freshman step up into sophomore year and just turn around like she has, her contribution,” Crawford said. “And of course, Lili, people throw junk defenses at her all the time. I would to if I was coaching against each her. But she is just so great. She has a knack to get to the line, and finish at the rim and knock down big 3s. She’s a joy to coach, because she doesn’t want this experience to end.”
WaKeeney improved to 19-3. Junior Caroline Brungardt and Day have been bothered by knee problems. Freshman Annabelle Malsam, a key reserve, is out for the season after she suffered a concussion this week.
The Golden Eagles, in the middle of the best three-year stretch in school history, finished fourth in Class 2A in 2019. Last year, WaKeeney was part of the 2A Forever Four when the tournament was cancelled from coronavirus.
“I know last year they kind of got robbed,” Dowell said. “I think they had a very good chance at winning state, and I think (Shubert) came out here, and was pretty determined not to be her last senior game. And give her credit. She is top in the league, and it’s a very, very tough league.”
The Golden Eagles’ winning streak includes the two victories against Hoxie and an overtime win versus Thomas More Prep-Marian, another squad WaKeeney suffered a loss to in January. Hoxie finished 11-12. Senior Paiton Rogers had her second game of 20-plus points with 24 on six treys.
“She’s been that girl that’s always in my opinion been a little bit more mature,” Dowell said. “And that was kind of the game plan tonight – was she has been our hottest 3-point shooter.”
On Saturday, WaKeeney will face Ellis (14-8) in the sub-state title game. Tipoff is 5 p.m. The Golden Eagles defeated Ellis, 62-60, in double overtime Feb. 5. Trego led 18-3 before Ellis made 12 treys. As well, the 3A sub-state final up US-283 in Norton has MCL squads Phillipsburg and TMP. WaKeeney, Phillipsburg and TMP all finished with one loss in regular season conference play.
The game was tied at 15 after the first, and Trego led 25-24 at halftime. Hoxie took the 32-31 lead after freshman Kinley Rogers sunk a pair of free throws at the 2:35 mark in the third. Then, sophomore Kya O’Banion found Shubert for a basket. Shubert drew a foul and made the free throw. Hoxie followed with two possessions that yielded missed 3s.
“We just tried to stay patient and move the ball as much as possible, keep the defense moving,” Shubert said.
O’Banion found Shubert for another trey and 37-32 advantage.
“Our defense was really doing what we wanted to do,” Dowell said. “And they hit more shots tonight than they had in those other games. But I am just proud of our girls because offensively, it’s something we have struggled with a little bit. And we just hung with them.”
Lately, Trego has used 5-foot-10 Madison Walt’s length in the post on defense. Walt blocked a baseline shot from Kinley Rogers and grabbed the defensive rebound.
“She does a good job of holding position and being long,” Crawford said. “And it makes it tough on their post.”
Then, Malinowsky delivered a steal, went down on the fast break and found Shubert for a layup with 10 seconds left in the third quarter. WaKeeney had one more possession, and Madison Walt dribbled full court and banked in a jumper at the buzzer for a 41-32 advantage entering the fourth. Malinowsky opened the fourth when she found Kaylee Walt for a nice basket.
“Our defense really stepped up,” Shubert said. “We started getting some stops and got some confidence on offense.”
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