Hoxie boys end up second in 1A Division I
By CONOR NICHOLL
EMPORIA -- Melvern-Marais Des Cygnes Valley High School senior Kaden Vanderpool recognized Hoxie star senior guard Kade Spresser from the summer basketball circuit.
Vanderpool had contained other top scorers this season and requested to guard Spresser in Saturday's Class 1A Division I state championship game.
Vanderpool contained Spresser all contest and Hoxie lost 50-36 at Emporia State University's White Auditorium.
Spresser had averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds and delivered 30 in the state semifinal. Versus MdCV, he finished 6 of 17 for 14 points and 11 rebounds, both game-highs.
"He moves his feet really well," Spresser said. "He is the best defender I have faced all year. I give him mad props, because he is a great player defensively, and they had great help defense. They took away our strengths, and it worked well."
Hoxie finished 24-2 and played in the first state championship game in school history. The Indians snapped their 24-game winning streak with the defeat. MdCV previously had one state championship appearance, a 65-62 loss to Montezuma-South Gray in 1997. The Trojans finished 26-0.
MdCV, ranked No. 1 most of the year, did little celebrating after the championship. Once the Trojans earned the top ranking in the poll, MdCV coach Tim Latham wrote it on the team's board: "We're No. 1, but do we deserve it?"
"They have never doubted all year long," Latham said. "...Go out and prove every night that you deserve to be No.1."
Hoxie ranked No. 3 in the classification in offense, while MdCV stood second at 58.3 and 59.3 points per game respectively, according to maxpreps.com. But the Trojans had allowed just 35 points per contest. Latham discussed this year's Super Bowl between the No. 1 ranked Denver Broncos' offense and the No. 1 ranked Seattle Seahawks' defense. Seattle won easily.
"The top defense will beat the top offense anytime, and we have played hard-nosed defense all year," Latham said. "I would put Hoxie as one of the top offenses in the state."
MdCV 6-foot-8 senior forward Mark Price collected 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Vanderpool and 6-foot-6 senior forward Matt Jones added 12.
"What makes it really tough is they have good guards," Hoxie coach Aaron Dardis said. "If they didn't have good guards, you could really sell out and take away their inside play."
Hoxie shot 26 percent in the first half and 29 percent for the game.
Senior guard Chase Kennedy, the Indians' No. 2 scorer, continued to struggle. Kennedy finished 1 of 17 shooting in the semifinals and 2 of 13 on Saturday.
"The ball just didn't really bounce our way tonight," Spresser said. "Really bounced their way for the most part. We couldn't get an offensive rebound."
Hoxie never led and trailed 17-9 after the first quarter and 21-13 at halftime.
The Indians pulled within 27-26 with 2 minutes, 20 seconds left in the third quarter when Spresser converted a 3-point play. Hoxie had a chance to take the lead, but couldn't get a shot to fall.
But Jones, in his only points of the third quarter, scored a conventional 3-point play with 78 seconds remaining.
MdCV led 31-26 after three quarters.
Hoxie missed its final three shots of the third quarter and first six of the fourth quarter. Some of the shots were wide-open looks. But MdCV normally challenged shots and made offense difficult.
"Vanderpool was a great defender," Dardis said. "They had great help side defense, but I think the on-the-ball defense was the best he has seen all season. That's tough on us when Kade gets limited."
The Trojans, a 60 percent shooting team from the free throw line, made their free throws down the stretch. MdCV finished 15 of 23 (65 percent) from the line.
"With their foul shooting, they definitely earned the victory," Dardis said.
Hoxie never got closer than nine points in the final 3:37.
"I am just so proud and thankful to be a part of it," Spresser said. "Just blessed to be a part of this team, and it was a great time. I had a great four years at Hoxie and wouldn't trade it for the world."