WaKEENEY — Plainville coach Chris Drees decided to gamble on the court with his team Saturday night.
It was the Class 2A sub-state championship game, and so why not? Especially when in the first quarter Hoxie senior guard Easton Slipke had scorched the Cardinals, scoring 21 of his team’s 25 points. What Drees changed was on defense to basically have all the attention put on Slipke and make the four other Indians try to beat Plainville that way.
When time had run out at the end of the fourth quarter, Drees and the Cardinals were celebrating their trip back to state by beating top-seeded Hoxie, 65-62.
“We went to a box and triangle at times, then a diamond,” Drees said about what happened after the first quarter when Hoxie led 25-17. “So we made some adjustments because (Slipke) had 23 at halftime, and I don’t know what he ended up with. Maybe 30? What we did was singularly focused on him. We were able to adjust that way. Luckily their other guys weren’t making shots. … It was just a good team win.”
What Slipke did finish with was 28 points, but once Plainville (17-6) focused more of the effort to stop him, Hoxie struggled to find much of an offensive flow. The Indians scored the first four points of the second quarter, but for the rest of the half, the Cardinals came back. A 15-0 run was topped by back-to-back 3-pointers from sophomore Jared Casey. During the Plainville scoring spree, the Indians couldn’t get anything to fall, even Slipke missed the front end of a one-and-one at the charity stripe twice. Hoxie senior Luke Schippers hit one of two free throws with 1:40 left in the first half to cut into Plainville’s lead at 32-30.
“We knew (Slipke) was a great player, and he can really shoot,” Plainville senior Hayden Gillum said. “I think we really kind of lost him in the beginning of the game. Coach brought us in and rallied us. We knew we had to find their good players on the floor, locate them and play defense on them.”
The Cardinals opened the second half building a 10-point lead. Hoxie (20-2) then began to find ways to score. Starting with junior Jarrod Dible in particular, who hit two third quarter treys after not scoring at all in the first half. Junior Logan Weimer added a three-point sequence, scoring a layup as he was fouled, then he hit the free throw. By the end of the third quarter, Hoxie trailed just 47-45.
Beating St. Francis in the semifinals Friday, Drees was worried about his team bouncing back from a hard fought 81-75 victory. He knew they could, but still it was just a matter of doing so.
“I was very worried,” Drees said. “But you get to a point in the season you just have to leave it there. If we don’t get past (Hoxie), we don’t get to play.”
The Plainville coach had implemented the team to run more set offensive plays than they had all season. Many of which, no opponent had seen.
“We executed phenomenally,” he said. “There’s plays we haven’t run all year. There’s no way they would have seen them on film because we haven’t shown them to anybody. We executed and scored on a bunch of them.”
The Cardinals held enough of an edge through the entire final quarter until Hoxie was able to tie the score at 59-59 on a Slipke 3-pointer. Plainville responded with a junior Tanner Copeland layup, and the Indians couldn’t tie it again.
With 8.5 seconds to play and trailing by three, Hoxie called a timeout to draw up a shot. Slipke put up a defended 3-pointer that bounced off the iron. As the ball went untouched after the shot, Weimer grabbed it and put up another 3-pointer. The ball bounced off the backboard and on its descent, Casey swung an arm with his fist clinched, sending the ball high into the air as time ran out.
“I saw (the final shot) coming up; it looked long,” Casey said of Hoxie’s final attempt. “It came off, and — it’s just unbelievable. An unbelievable feeling right now.”
Four Cardinals scored in double-figures. Casey led the way with 18. He was followed by Copeland with 16, Gillum had 12 and senior Chase Cellmer added 11.
Plainville will open play in the 2A state tournament Thursday at Bramlage Coliseum on the Kansas State University campus at 4:45 p.m. as a sixth-seed. The Cardinals will meet No. 3 seed Pittsburg-Colgan (21-2).