Three-peat -- Hoxie girls make it three in a row
By CONOR NICHOLL
EMPORIA -- Hoxie High School trailed 5-0 after the first minute of Saturday's Class 1A Division I state championship game against Blue Rapids-Valley Heights. Junior forward Lexi Schamberger had two fouls.
But the Indians quickly changed the game.
Junior Carly Heim drove to the basket and scored a conventional 3-point play at the 6:54 mark of the first quarter. Two steals led to five more points.
Senior Kristina Farber contained Blue Rapids' leading scorer, sophomore forward Brandi Jo Roepke.
A 36-6 run ensued and Hoxie delivered a blowout 71-51 victory at Emporia State University's White Auditorium.
"We had it under control," Farber said. "It seems like we always have to stay calm and work through it. We can do that -- we are good at that."
Hoxie continued one of the all-time great runs in Kansas history. The Indians bumped their winning streak to 73 games (including byes), won their third straight state title and second consecutive undefeated season. Hoxie finished 26-0, while No. 2 seed Valley Heights was 24-2.
"Our kids have that capability," coach Shelly Hoyt said of big runs. "We knew we could pressure them. We knew we had to hold Brandi Jo Roepke down. She is a great player. Tina did an awesome job on her."
Hoxie is the first area team to win three in a row -- and two back-to-back. Farber wasn't aware of the streak until Hoyt told her team in the locker room following the victory.
"It's not describable," Farber said. "I am on cloud nine, we all are. I won't have this feeling probably again. But I am glad that when I have it, I get to have it with the people that I love the most."
The Indians are the fifth Kansas program in girls' history to have back-to-back perfect seasons, and the seventh to win at least three in a row, according to Kansas historian Carol Swenson. Hoxie can break the state record of 91 straight wins set by Little River next season.
"We were telling our girls, 'You have got to get back, you have got to get back,' " Valley Heights coach Jenny Yungeberg said. "I think their team speed is deceiving a little bit. A little bit faster than maybe you think they are. They are kind of like a machine."
Including a state runner-up finish to Olpe in 2010-11, Hoxie is 100-3 in the last four seasons. Farber and seniors Gabi Spresser and Natasha Allmer started to play with Hoyt in elementary school and talked about state titles.
"We had plans from the time that we were in third grade," Farber said. "It's been something that we have been going after our whole life. ... We have been together a long time. It's going to be hard to part with her."
With 37.8 seconds left, the officials halted the game so Hoyt could put in her freshmen. As soon as the game stopped, Hoyt pumped both fits and shouted, "Yes!" The Hoxie bench shed tears of joy and wore smiles in the big victory. With 17 seconds remaining, the Indian fans started their trademark victory clap.
Hoxie defeated St. John 55-45 two years ago and 68-63 against Olpe last season. Hoxie beat Spearville 60-39 and Osborne 67-43 in the semifinals this state tournament.
"It was a total team effort," Hoyt said. "Honestly, we knew we could run on them."
Outside of a 2-0 deficit against Spearville, the Indians never trailed in the first two games. But senior Lesley Frohberg made a trey and then two free throws for a 5-0 lead for Valley Heights.
Immediately following Frohberg's free throws, Heim took the ball straight in and scored a 3-point play.
"To me, she is the best point guard in the state," Hoyt said. "I haven't seen too many other classes, but she is one great point guard."
Heim, a two-state all-time player, finished with 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals. Spresser paced the Indians with 23 points.
"We needed to stop their runs," Heim said. "If we can get through it, then we can get through anything together."
Farber had three steals in the first quarter and kept Roepke from shooting until 68 seconds left in the first quarter.
As well, Hoxie fought through Valley Heights' screens in the post, a key part of the Mustang offense. Junior point guard Cassidy Coggins picked up two fouls early and never scored.
"Coach told me just to take her vision away," Farber said. "I probably wouldn't be able to take her shot away, but if I took (her vision) away, then we could hold her."
Hoxie led 26-11 after the first quarter and 36-11 after a Spresser basket off a Heim pass with 5 minutes, 22 seconds left in the first half.
Even with constant foul trouble, several players, including freshman Brynn Niblock (two points, four rebounds, two assists) stepped up.
"When we press like that and play that type of defense, we know we are going to need our bench," Hoyt said. "They came through - just like they always do."
Roepke, who had 39 points in the first two games, led Valley Heights with 16 points and five rebounds. Hoxie led 39-23 at halftime and 52-35 after three quarters.
"Definitely worth it," Farber said. "Every year, everyday in the gym, it all comes up to this one moment. It's what we have been working for, and I wouldn't trade any minute for it."