Stockton tops Hoxie in first round
Published on -3/8/2013, 10:13 AM
By ERNIE W. WEBB III
Special to the Hays Daily News
EMPORIA -- The Stockton High School boys' basketball team has a team loaded with underclassmen, but the Tigers played like grizzled veterans Thursday during the opening round of the Class 1A Division I tournament at White Auditorium.
Stockton (18-6) took control with a 14-1 run spanning in the first and second quarters and coasted to a 58-42 win against third-seeded Hoxie (20-4).
"We've never been in a game like this, or experienced anything like this," said 6-foot-4 sophomore Justin Wiltfong, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Tigers. "Not knowing what to expect, we just wanted to give it everything we had. I thought we played really well."
The Tigers advanced to today's 4:45 p.m. semifinals against second-seeded South Haven (22-2). South Haven defeated Minneola 54-48 in other first-round action Thursday.
Though Hoxie finished third at the state tournament last year, the Indians also have a roster full of underclassmen. Coach Aaron Dardis said his team's inexperience was a factor.
"We did not play Indians basketball tonight," he said. "There's no doubt we had some nerves and came out tight. At the same time, Stockton has a very good team."
Stockton's defense and Hoxie's offensive woes were the biggest factors during the decisive run in the first half. The Indians tied the score at 12-12 on a 3-pointer by junior Chase Kennedy with a little more than a minute left in the first quarter, but Hoxie scored just one point during the next five-plus minutes.
Wiltfong had nine points during that stretch, leading the Tigers to a 26-13 lead midway through the second quarter.
"He (6-foot-5 sophomore teammate Jaden Williams) and I are a tough duo on defense, and I think we bothered them inside today," Wiltfong said. "The defense got us going, and we were able to play relaxed."
Trailing 31-20 at the half, Hoxie trimmed the deficit to seven two minutes into the third quarter on a put-back by sophomore Tanner Smith. But Stockton answered with a 3-pointer by junior Reed Stephens, pushed the lead to as many as 14 and maintained an 11-point edge going into the final period.
"We just couldn't make a shot," Dardis said. "We knew they were going to play that zone. It's a good, sagging zone, and it bothered us. Kade Spresser got hot for a stretch in the third quarter, but we couldn't get anything else going.
"Even with tonight, I'm very proud of this team. We're still young, and this will help us next year. If you'd told me we'd win 20 games, win our league and get to the state tournament before the season, I'd take it."
The Indians got as close as 44-37 with 4:45 remaining on a Spresser bucket, but Wiltfong canned a 12-footer and added a conventional three-point play to squelch the rally.
Spresser, a junior, had a double-double for the Indians with 25 points and 13 rebounds. No other Hoxie player scored more than five points.
Senior Koby Beougher had 13 points and seven rebounds for Stockton, while Stephens also was in double figures for the Tigers with 10 points.