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Hoxie girls survive Dighton in tourney semis

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

QUINTER - Dighton, thge No. 7 ranked team in Class 1A Division II, focused on two aspects in practice for Friday's contest against the Hoxie High School girls' basketball team in the semifinals of the Castle Rock Classic. Hoxie likes to speed up teams, force turnovers with its press and have easy layups. Dighton wanted to break the press early and take the Indians out of a full court game. Secondly, Dighton worked on defense and focused on where Hoxie's players were going to be.

The game plan pushed the Indians to the final minutes and gave Hoxie, ranked No. 1 in Class 1A Division I, one of its best contests in its 51-game winning streak. Hoxie eventually collected a 64-56 victory in a win marked by several big runs. It was the Indians' closest regular season game in the streak. Hoxie's last loss came against Wichita Word of Life in the Castle Rock Classic final two years ago.

"We came back and answered their calls, but I feel like we have to play at that level all the time, and we weren't doing that," Hoxie coach Shelly Hoyt said. "We would get a 10-point lead, and we would relax, and they have to realize that there is a huge target on their back."

Hoxie had just six players score, but five had at least eight points and three finished with double figures. Junior Carly Heim, a two-time all-state player for the Indians' back-to-back state championship teams, led the Indians with 21 points, including several driving layups in the second half.

"Everybody wants to take you down, and they are coming after you," Heim said. "You have to be ready each and every time. You can't just play half speed. You always have to go for it."

Hoxie improved to 3-0 and was scheduled to play Ellis on Saturday night for the championship. Dighton dropped to 2-1 and will face Rexford-Golden Plains for third place.

"I know that we will get better together, and I don't think anybody can stop us if we play like we can," sophomore Terran Hoyt said.

Dighton set a goal to hold Hoxie under 50 points. The Hornets had 31 turnovers, but minimized damage from Hoxie's press and forced the Indians into a half-court game. Hoxie finished 7 of 22 from beyond the arc, including three 3s from Hoyt. The Indians trailed 8-7 early before three 3s gave Hoxie a 16-10 lead.

"They hit a few too many 3s," Dighton coach Amy Felker said.

Dighton tied the contest at 20 midway through the second quarter. Hoxie led the rest of the game, but the Hornets remained close. Dighton, with four seniors from a state-qualifying team last season, had 14 points from sophomore Kiara Budd and 12 by senior Liz Heath.

"For us, that was a win," Felker said. "We gained so much confidence and the girls know now what they can do, and how they can compete."

In the summer and at the beginning of the season, Hoyt believed Hoxie was going to be stronger than last year's 26-0 squad, but wasn't going to be as deep.

Junior Lexi Schamberger and senior Kristina Farber each collected two fouls in the first four minutes and sat for much of the first half. Farber, a four-year starter, had just four points, while Schamberger finished with 12. Freshmen Brynn Niblock and Erin Carter provided some solid minutes.

"I thought our younger kids came in and under pressure, did a really good job," Coach Hoyt said. "I told them just (Thursday) night that there is going to come a time when they are going to have to step up for us, so they are going to have to be focused in practice and practice hard, and they did a good job tonight, so I was proud of them."

Hoxie had a 35-25 lead at halftime, 47-37 after three quarters and led 55-39 with 5 minutes, 4 seconds left to play. Then, Dighton went on a 13-2 run and cut the deficit to five with 90 seconds remaining.

"That was a test all right," Coach Hoyt said.

Heim received a Farber pass and cut to the lane for a layup. Dighton scored again, but with 48.8 seconds left, Hoxie inbounded the ball on the sideline. Heim received a handoff from senior Natasha Allmer and sprinted in for a layup. Heim closed out the game with three free throws in the final seconds.

"She can take over at anytime, and she can carry a team on her back," Coach Hoyt said.