Hoxie back to defend title
Published on -3/5/2013, 11:57 AM
By NICK McQUEEN
Hoxie High School girls' basketball coach Shelly Hoyt knows she shouldn't have to do much to get her team hyped up for the Class 1A Division I state tournament.
The longtime Indian coach said her squad, the defending state champion, should have been playing like that all season long. Judging by the nearly ridiculous blowouts Hoxie put forth, the Indians have had the fire all along.
"Is there more importance (now)?" Hoyt said. "I don't know that either, because every game should be important to them. It's really not about winning one game, you should want to try and win them all."
So far so good.
She admits, though, while the season has brought about unique challenges for her dominant team, a run at a repeat presents a task at a whole new level. The campaign starts with Wednesday's 3 p.m. opener at Emporia's White Auditorium against challenger South Haven (16-7), which hasn't made the state tournament since winning it all in 1A in 2007.
"You work your butt off, and you're not going to fold now," Hoyt said. "I would hate to say 'you have to step it up,' because they should have been doing that to begin with."
And, the Indians have. After finishing last season with a one-loss state championship, Hoxie (23-0) opened the year with a 60-point drubbing of defending Class 1A Division II champion Sharon Springs-Wallace County. From there, the dominance continued to the point where Hoxie won 22 games by an average of 46.2 points. The closest anyone got to the Indians was 24 (Class 3A Norton). Class 2A sub-state runner-up Ellis came within 26.
"We were really happy on Saturday night," said South Haven first-year coach Eric Adams of his team's sub-state championship in Udall. "Then Sunday, the reality kind of set in when we saw who we drew.
"They're pretty loaded and run a full-court press," the coach added. "They score in the 70s, and even in the 90s, and you don't do that by walking up and down the floor. We have our work cut out."
Hoxie averages 22.8 steals per game, led by junior Kristina Farber's 4.8. Three players average at least three steals per outing.
While Hoxie will run the floor, play pressure defense and be constantly in the faces of its opponent, the Cardinals counter with good hustle play of their own. So much so South Haven leads the state, regardless of classification, with 41.2 rebounds per game, according to maxpreps.com.
The Cardinals starting five includes a pair of 5-foot-10 sophomores (Baylee Tanner and Baylee Jacobs), and a 5-foot-9 senior forward/guard (Launa White), who combine for more than half of those boards.
"We rebound well, and we stress that big in practice," said Adams, who coached middle school basketball at Class 4A Wellington for 11 seasons. "Our girls kind of take pride in that."
With no players averaging more than 8.9 points per game (Jacobs), the Cardinals boast no standouts, but manage to put up nearly 50 points per contest. That's nearly a mirror image of Hoxie, but the Indians put four in double figures, ranging from 10 to 11 points a night. Junior Gabi Spresser leads the way with 11.5, while Farber (11.0), senior Danel Stithem (10.5) and sophomore Carly Heim (10.7) chip in.
As well, sophomore Lexi Schamberger and freshman Terran Hoyt have got their buckets with 9.0 and 8.6 points, respectively. It's a balanced effort that has become synonymous with Hoxie in their dominant run.
Hoxie was third in Class 2A in 2004 and 2005, then runner-up in 2006. Hoxie lost in the first round of Class 1A in 2009, but since the split into Division I and Division II, Hoxie has been in the title game both seasons.
"They challenge each other every single day in practice," Hoyt said. "And, we feel very blessed to have 10 to 12 kids that push each other as hard as they do.
"The top six wouldn't be as good without the bottom six," she added.
While the Indians, ranked No. 2 in the classification, aren't looking past anyone, Hoxie is part of the bottom half of the bracket, which includes last year's runner-up, St. John-Hudson, now 21-2. Olpe, ranked No. 1, is the top seed at 23-0.
"They're pretty focused," Hoyt said of her team. "My approach, we'll just take it one game at a time down there. It's all about matchups, and we'll see how we match up with South Haven, and hopefully we can move on from there -- one game at time."