MANHATTAN — It had not even been 48 hours since winning the Plainville Class 2A sub-state championship that the Hoxie High School boys’ basketball team learned their coach, Jake Moss, would not be going with them to the state tournament.
As hard of news as it might have been for the Indians, the players each know there is still a goal to work toward. It might just take a few bumps to get there, the team knows.
Opening the 2A state tournament with a convincing 74-57 win over No. 3 seed Sedan on Wednesday, the Hoxie team celebrated the moment, and also had Coach Moss in their thoughts.
“This is for our coach,” sophomore Jarrod Dible said.
Since it was made known to the players, assistant coach B.J. Beiker has stepped into Moss’ place for the week. Hoxie Athletic Director Lance Baar — serving as Beiker’s assistant coach as well — did not get too specific as to why Moss is not coaching the team at state.
Moss was in a one-vehicle accident early Sunday morning south of Hoxie. He was transported to the hospital.
“He’s dealing with some personal matters,” Baar said. “That’s all I’m going to say on the matter right now.”
Despite not having the coach there, the Indians seemed to hardly miss a beat at times under Beiker’s guidance in the first round. Hoxie (19-4) held an eight-point lead at the end of the first quarter. The Indians extended it to 40-24 by halftime, when junior guard Latham Schwarz hit a running jumper inside the 3-point line at the buzzer.
“It feels good,” Beiker said of Hoxie moving on. “I knew it was a difficult situation. The kids pulled through. They’ve had my back, it’s all them. I just had a game plan made and they provided everything else. We worked all summer, all year for this. I knew we were going to be good.”
Whatever run Sedan (20-4) would make, the Indians had an answer.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils worked on their most substantial run of the game, cutting what had been a 20-point deficit to 59-51 on a junior Kylar Walker 3-pointer. The lead was cut even a little more to 61-54, but that was as close as it would get. Dible was a contributing factor to the Indians pulling further away from Sedan down the stretch as he hit two 3-pointers, then closed out the scoring with a pair of free throws.
“I just really think our team likes this type of atmosphere,” said Dible, who had a game-high 21 points. “We’re hitting shots in this type of atmosphere, and I think we just really love it.”
Junior Kiefer Brewer was the lone Blue Devil to score in double-digits as he had 12 points.
The win sets Hoxie up against top seed Sacred Heart in Friday’s 8:15 p.m. semifinal.
“I was just nice to get on this court,” sophomore guard Easton Slipke said after scoring 19 points. “Being in this atmosphere was just awesome. All our fans coming up showing their support is amazing… There’s nothing better than seeing family drive all this way to see us play.”
Schwarz joined Dible and Slipke in double-figure scoring with 16 points.