HOISINGTON, Kan. Five Central Kansas League teams occupy half of the latest Class 3A top-10. All that talent has made for some serious infighting in the final two weeks of the regular season. Friday night a pair of those ranked teams met in Hoisington. The host Cardinals overcame an early 13-point deficit to take down Larned 73-62.
“We were down 13 early in the game and we had to fight like crazy to get back in the game,” said Hoisington coach Kyle Haxton. “I looked at the clock and we’re down 13 and I thought we better go, and now. They stepped up defensively at that point.
“The thing we kept harping was defensive rebounds. Offensively we were shooting the ball so well and attacking the basket so well, we weren’t worried about making or missing shots. It was just making stops and getting rebounds. We invested in that and that’s what gave us both of our runs.”
Larned led 36-33 at the half and a 3-pointer from senior Change Sanger doubled the gap just 30 seconds into the third quarter. Another triple from Sanger again made the lead six at 45-39 with 4:07 to play in the third.
Then the comeback began. Cardinal junior Holt Hanzlick swished a transition three, then junior Chase Robinson got to the rim. A 3-pointer from junior Drew Nicholson gave Hoisington the lead at 49-47 – its first since a 5-4 score early in the first quarter.
Junior Mason Haxton hit a big three to end the first quarter. His step-back trey at the third quarter was even bigger as it gave the Cardinals a 52-47 lead.
Nicholson continued to loom large in the fourth quarter with 10 of his team-high 26 points coming in the final eight minutes. “Coach Haxton was just telling me to play my role,” he said. “My role is kind of as a scorer. I like to find my teammates open and they create for me. They drag guys off their defenders so I can get open lanes to drive.”
A Nicholson runner pushed the Cardinal gap to 59-49 with 6:46 to play and the Indians never seriously threatened again. Sanger hit a late three but finally missed a few times in the second half. He finished with a game-high 27 points for Larned.
“We decided to shadow him,” Coach Haxton said. “There was no way to stop him tonight. He was hitting crazy shots. The tough thing is he can put the ball on the floor just as well as he can shoot it. If you get up in his face, he’ll go around you.
“We were doing the same thing to (Brock) Skelton because of his ability to shoot the ball. We’re shadowing two kids on the floor, so that’s two kids who are not in help position. That left all the help to three of our guys. I thought Mason and Drew did a good job in our help. Bralen (Thompson), Holt (Hanzlick), and Ryan (Woydziak) were working their tails off trying to get the rebounds and cutting off drives.”
Junior Layton Crosby added 12 points for Larned, and the senior Skelton scored eight of his nine points in the first half. Haxton finished with eight points for Larned, and Thompson and Avery Brewer each had big fourth quarters for the Cardinals to finish with eight points.
Hoisington (15-4) will likely hit Class 3A playoffs as the No. 2 seed against Concordia. That difficult Beloit substate also features ranked teams from Beloit and TMP. Larned (13-5) needs a win to secure a first-round home game in an even more difficult Halstead bracket that features the league’s other ranked teams in Hesston, Haven, and Lyons.