Hoxie continues hot streak
By CONOR NICHOLL
By CONOR NICHOLL
HOXIE -- On Dec. 6, the Hoxie High School boys' basketball team lost its season opener, 69-54, to Wallace County. The Indians had posted back-to-back 20-win seasons and state appearances -- and returned every scorer from last winter.
Hoxie had little preseason practice because of a sub-state run in the Eight-Man Division I football playoffs. After the defeat, Hoxie coach Aaron Dardis told his veteran team in the locker room the loss "could be the best thing that could happen to us."
"We had so many returning players, and I think the guys just expected that we would go and automatically have the same results as we had last year," Dardis said. "It doesn't work that way. When you lose that first game, then you have more of a sense of urgency to improve and work on the things that you need to improve on."
Since then, Hoxie has reeled off 15 straight victories and stands at No. 3 in Class 1A Division I. Only the Indians and top-ranked Marais Des Cygnes Valley (16-0), led by 6-foot-8 senior forward Matt Jones, have fewer than two losses in the classification, according to maxpreps.com.
On Jan. 25, Hoxie beat Wallace County, 54-37, in the Northwest Kansas League tournament championship. It was the first loss for the Wildcats, ranked third in Class 1A Division II. On Tuesday, Hoxie collected a 76-61 home victory versus Plainville. The win ended the Cardinals' 13-game winning streak and dropped Plainville, ranked No. 3 in Class 2A, to 15-2.
"I really think it was beneficial," Dardis said. "We just didn't play our best in that first game, and it's early. The football team made a run in the playoffs, so our practice schedule was off from most seasons, and we just didn't have a great night. I think in the end, it's paid off for us."
Hoxie averages 65.8 points per contest, tops in the classification. Senior Kade Spresser paces the Indians with 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists per contest. Plainville coach Chris Drees said the crafty Spresser "makes it look easy." Spresser has an impressive mid-range game he used often in a 25-point effort against Plainville.
"He is a 15-foot jump shooter," Drees said. "The thing that I like about him is that he doesn't try to do too much. If it's not there, he doesn't force anything, but he elevates well and his shot never changes. As a coach, that's a picture-perfect jump shot."
Spresser outscored his cousin, Plainville senior Hadley Gillum, who finished with 20 points. Spresser, as usual, worked for his shot and found open space. Spresser missed his first five shots and opened 1 of 8 from the field, but made 11 of his final 16 shots. During a stretch in the second and third quarters, Spresser made six of eight shots, including four jumpers.
"I practice it a lot," he said. "I started shooting it when I was young, because if I shoot the open 3, you have guys that get out on you.
"They weren't letting me have anything - I would have to shoot four feet beyond the line, but if I pump faked them and could get into the lane, then I could shoot," he added. "It's what I go to. I am not going to take it all the way to Hadley, because then he would block me."
Hoxie girls look to stay focused
Hoxie, on a 63-game winning streak, set the state record for margin of victory at plus-42.9 points per game en route to an undefeated season and Class 1A Division I state title last year. The Indians broke the mark of plus-40.9 set by Little River in 1996, according to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
This season, the Indians, again ranked No. 1 in the classification, have started 16-0. Dighton has pushed the Indians to eight and nine points, while Ellis played Hoxie within eight points. On Friday, Hoxie travels to Dighton, ranked No. 3 in 1A Division II.
Still, the Indians have outscored teams by an average margin of 76-30.3, a margin of plus-45.7. Senior Gabi Spresser admitted it's "really hard to focus" when Hoxie wins by massive margins. Hoxie has tallied more than 90 points three times.
But veteran coach Shelly Hoyt has kept the team grounded by reminding them how hard the Indians have worked and how much time they've put in. Hoxie also has a small roster with just 11 healthy players.
"The ones that we have, love this game and they love each other, so when you just remind them how much they love this game and how much they love each other, our goal is become a better family, and a closer family," Hoyt said. "When you remind them of all that, then it's easy for them to go out and play hard for each other."
Even though the Indians are in the middle of one of Kansas' great runs, the Indians rarely have all-state players. By the Kansas basketball coaches all-state selections, senior Kendra Spresser (first team) was the lone all-state player in 2009.
Hoxie didn't have any all-state selections in '10 or '11 despite a state runner-up finish in '11. In '12, Hoxie won the state title -- with no first teamers. Shelby Heim, now a key player for Kansas Wesleyan, was second team and Carly Heim was third team.
Last season, the Indians earned a little more recognition in the undefeated season with Carly Heim at first team, senior Kristina Farber on third team and Gabi Spresser an honorable mention pick. Spresser, who had 29 points against Plainville on Tuesday, said she feels "somewhat" underrated.
"Honestly, I don't think a lot of our kids get much press and it's because our entire team is unselfish," Hoyt said. "They play so well together, you don't know who is going to step up on a certain night."
Sophomore Terran Hoyt had 20-plus points in a recent game. Heim, Farber and Spresser have all stepped up.
"It's hard to key on somebody when they are all contributing and you don't know who is going to step up in one particular night," Coach Hoyt said. "I just think that sometimes, they don't get a lot of recognition because they don't score a lot of points. Our objective isn't for one kid to score a lot of points. It's to keep winning ball games and to keep playing together and getting better -- and they are doing that."