WaKEENEY — In a way, the Hill City High School girls' basketball team has become somewhat of kryptonite to Hoxie.
After the Ringnecks snapped Hoxie's state record 107-game win streak two years ago, they stopped the Indians' long run to state tournaments in the Class 2A sub-state championship a year ago.
On Saturday, with Hoxie holding the No. 1 sub-state seed, Hill City ended another Hoxie run again with a 57-37 win.
Hoxie (20-2) did beat Hill City in their regular season meetings the last two seasons, so it might not be a full kryptonite-type hold. But knocking out one of the most successful programs in recent state memory two years in a row, there's something the Ringnecks have over the Indians other programs don’t.
"It's better than being the other way around for darn sure," Hill City coach Linda Nighswonger said. "We knew coming in it was going to be a knock down, drag out battle. We knew we could get the better of them, but you just never know when you're in this game. So it was nice."
At first glance, the margin of victory might appear deceitful after what was a back-and-forth scramble through two quarters with six lead changes. Following the halftime break when Hill City (20-3) held a 26-24 lead, the Ringnecks simply clamped down on Hoxie defensively. Two early second half free throws by senior Rebekah Castle tied the game, but from there on, it was all Hill City.
A pair of free throws by senior Carrie Kennedy put the Ringnecks up five, and the lead gradually grew. Hill City was on a 12-0 run before Hoxie junior Macalee White hit a layup. It was the Indians' only field goal of the third quarter.
Being ahead early in the second half was different for the Ringnecks. Last year, they had to dig out of a double-digit hole Hoxie had put them in during the first half.
"We knew (Hoxie) could fight back," Hill City guard Conner Keith said of the Ringnecks building a large lead in the second half. "They have good depth and usually can come back, but we just had to play defense."
Hill City particularly concentrated on keeping Castle from scoring in the low post. Castle scored 13 points in the first half, but had just four points and one field goal in the final 16 minutes.
On the offensive side, Keith led the charge for Hill City, dropping in 27 points. She along with Kennedy and senior Ellie Keener were the only three Ringnecks to score in the second half until freshman Alissa Keith came off the bench late and hit a 3-pointer right before the final buzzer sounded.
"It's amazing," Conner Keith said. "This team, we've been working since we were in the fourth grade. This year's the year we've been working toward, and we knew what we had to do and got the job done tonight."
Before halftime senior guard Lauren Jones converted a 3-pointer into a four-point sequence by knocking down the free throw after she had been fouled at the top of the key as she released the shot. The four points gave the Ringnecks a 19-16 lead.
"Sometimes we don't start off very fast, and we knew we could not get into a big hole and fight our way out," Nighswonger said. "I mean, we could, but we didn't want to.
“(Jones) and Keith just pester people all the time. Whenever they turn around, there they are. That's been a big key to our success in that they're really pesky and people are always wondering where they're at."
The trip to state will be the fourth straight for Hill City. The Ringnecks were eliminated by Meade in the first round of the 2A tournament last season.
Hill City is the fourth seed this year and meets No. 5 Pittsburg-Colgan (19-4) at 4:45 p.m. Wednesday at Bramlage Coliseum on the Kansas State University campus in Manhattan.