Top stories 2012: Hoxie grabs a title for Hoyt
By NICK McQUEEN
In a coaching career that has lasted more than 20 years, Hoxie High School girls' basketball coach Shelly Hoyt has had her fair share of league championships, sub-state titles and strong showings at various state levels in Missouri, Attica, Utica and Hoxie.
In 2012, though, a young Hoxie squad handed Hoyt something she had yet to see -- a state championship.
Hoxie captured its second girls' title by defeating St. John, 55-45, in March at Emporia State University's White Auditorium.
The Indians' previous state title was won in 1993 in Class 3A.
It's one of The Hays Daily News' top sports stories of 2012.
"It was time for the big one," Hoyt said after the title. "It was just time. We have depth and we have athleticism. We have the whole package."
Hoxie finished its season 24-1, with its only loss to Wichita-Word of Life, a school not affiliated with the Kansas State High School Activities Association.
The title came a year after Hoxie had lost to Olpe on the same floor in the title game.
"All summer long, I said 'We've got to beat the St. Johns of the world, the Olpes of the world,' " Hoyt said. "We don't need to beat teams that we are going to beat by 50 and 60. We need to beat those people, so you need to practice like a state championship team."
Along the way, though, Hoxie did beat its fair share of teams by large margins.
In its 24 wins, Hoxie surrendered just 30 points per game, including a 75-5 drubbing of Ransom-Western Plains.
"Everything we have ever worked for has come true," senior guard Mackenzie Mense said after the state title. "This is our dream. It's for the team. The team, oh my gosh, this is the best team that you could ever ask for."
Hoxie and St. John were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, or vice versa, all season long. They entered the state tournament as the favorites to compete for the title.
Much like it had all season, Hoxie used a tough defense to win the title, not hitting a field goal in the fourth quarter.
"We just guarded their main players and we left the other ones to shoot, because we knew they might not take it," said senior Shelby Heim.
In the semifinals, Hoxie saw a rare tough test from Spearville. After leading by 12 at halftime, the Lancers closed the gap.
But, Hoyt credited her team with not wanting to again play for third place as the Indians pulled away again for a 68-56 win.
"They did not come here to not play in the state championship game," Hoyt said. "I thought that they showed tonight that they were relentless and that they were not going to give up that lead, and they were determined to get the job done, and that's what they did."
Shelby Heim, whose younger sister, Carly, was also on the team, scored a season-best 33 points in the win. Despite a slow start in the tourney opener, Hoxie rolled to a 71-29 win against Lost Springs-Centre.
Hoxie, with many of its players back for the 2012-13 season, is once again among the favorites. Off to a 5-0 start, Hoxie has yet to be tested, and is ranked No. 2 in Division I, behind Olpe.