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Hoxie boys top Plainville

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

HOXIE -- Hoxie High School boys' basketball coach Aaron Dardis is 143-70 in his 10th season. Dardis normally is focused on the game and coaching decisions and doesn't pay attention to the crowd noise. However, Dardis easily heard the raucous din inside Hoxie's fieldhouse Tuesday night. Dardis said it was the loudest home crowd in his tenure.

After the first quarter, Hoxie trailed Plainville by eight in a matchup of two of the area's best squads.

"I had goosebumps," Dardis said. "I think the guys and myself sitting on the bench could feel the intensity of both sides. It just made for a great game. At the end of the first quarter, I said, 'Guys, hey, this is fun. I know you are having fun. Let's just leave it on the court, enjoy it, and let's go get it.' "

Hoxie stayed calmer than the Cardinals and quickly came back in the second quarter. The Indians eventually delivered a 76-61 victory.

"Plainville jumped on us a little bit," Dardis said. "I could just tell with the guys' body language that they know it's a long game, and they kept their composure, and it paid off for us."

With Colby and Cloud County Community College coaches in attendance, Hoxie all-state senior Kade Spresser finished with 25 points and eight rebounds. His first cousin and Cardinal all-state senior Hadley Gillum finished with 20 points, but just seven in the final three quarters, and 12 rebounds. Gillum finished below his season averages of 21 points and 14 rebounds.

Plainville was plus-2 on the glass, but committed nine more turnovers.

"We started turning the ball over and didn't rebound and when they are able to get out and run, they are a darn good team," Cardinal coach Chris Drees said. "Extremely athletic and fast. We knew that going in. I thought we had some things in place to counteract that, but we didn't execute those tonight."

Hoxie, ranked No. 3 in Class 1A Division I, moved to 15-1. Plainville, ranked No. 3 in Class 2A, dropped to 15-2.

"With an experienced group, they can handle those momentum shifts," Dardis said of his team that returned every point from a 20-win season last year. "Younger teams seem to hit the panic button, and I think the guys are pretty good about just riding it out and taking one play at a time."

After the contest, the Spresser and Gillum families stayed on the court and talked for more than 20 minutes. Spresser guarded Gillum for part of the game in Hoxie's 3-2 zone -- a tactic the Indians didn't desire. Gillum, who hit one 3-pointer all last season en route to Hays Daily News Player of the Year honors, has 18 this winter, including five Tuesday.

"Playing your first cousin that you have always played with since fourth, fifth grade, it's kind of hard playing against him," Spresser said. "I respect him a lot, and he is a really good player, 6-foot-5 post player coming out and hitting those 3s like that, that's pretty good."

Plainville led 24-17 after the first eight minutes in an up-tempo contest, a pace that Drees considered too fast for his defensive-minded team. Gillum had 13 first-quarter points.

"I knew after the first quarter, we were in trouble," Drees said. "We were up. We played like that early (season), but that's just not our game anymore."

In the second quarter, Plainville had several bad passes and committed eight turnovers, seven more than Hoxie. The Indians opened the quarter on a 7-0 run, including a basket from Spresser

"I've got to have everyone on the same page with me," Spresser said. "We are all right, we are fine, don't get out of control. We have got to keep our composure, and that's what helped us."

Junior Connor Katt had a steal and a basket and eventually finished with 17 points. Senior Chase Kennedy made two treys and had a conventional three-point play in the second quarter en route to 14 points.

"Connor has improved so much," Dardis said. "He has played since he was a freshman, but he has a confidence now that I have seen before and when he shoots, he has that mentality, he knows that it's going in, and if it doesn't, he is going to get back on defense, and I love that about him."

Hoxie led 42-32 at halftime and opened a 60-43 lead after three quarters. The Indians focused on Gillum in the zone and wanted to make other Cardinals beat them. Spresser labeled the defense a "swarm," especially when Gillum went into the lane.

Senior Mitch Johnson and junior Tanner Smith, 6-foot-4 and 6-5, respectively, helped on the inside against Gillum. Hoxie allowed one field goal from Gillum from 45 seconds left in the first quarter until less than a minute remained.

"We were a little too hyped up and made some bad turnovers at some bad times," Drees said.