DODGE CITY — Victoria High School boys’ basketball coach Dylan Dronberger put his stress-relief towel, always found in his hands, to extra work Saturday afternoon.
The sixth-seeded Knights (15-10) survived a furious rally by top-seeded Hanover (21-6), the defending Class 1A Division I champion, to take home the third-place trophy with a 63-60 win at the Civic Center.
The trophy is paired with back-to-back football championships won by a majority of the same players. But the hard work and keys were learned well before the Victoria seniors made their names in the eight-man football playoffs.
“When we were in middle school, we had a traveling baseball team and won back-to-back state championships in K-18,” Victoria senior Taylor Corley said. “Our coaches back then, they always said we had a chance of doing something special in high school and we just stuck to it. Thankfully, in high school we had some guys ahead of us that knew the ropes, showed us the way and gave us the keys to the car.”
With an 11-8 lead midway through the first quarter, Joey Dortland took the game into his hands. Fresh off a 14-point performance in Victoria’s semifinal loss to Osborne on Friday in which he felt he still struggled from the field, Dronberger sensed Dortland wanted a chance at redemption.
“He’s a 3-point shooter, he knows that’s what his game is,” Dronberger said. “He has his games where he can just hit constantly, and he’s had those games throughout this season. … He had a bad shooting night last night, so he wanted to redeem himself.”
Dortland made four straight shots for the Knights, three coming from 3-point range. His 11 first-half points sparked a 25-14 lead after the first quarter.
Starting with his final 3-pointer of the quarter, Victoria went on a 19-2 run to lead by 22 points. Michael Juenemann and Will Bruna caught fire for the Wildcats and answered with an 18-1 run, bringing the Victoria lead to within four at the half.
“It was pretty nuts,” Corley said. “It looked like we had smooth sailing, but we knew they were gonna fight back. Hanover, man, they’re pretty good. They kept coming and luckily we were able to fight them off.”
The lead swung in favor of Hanover, 53-48, early in the fourth as part of a 37-10 run spanning more than two quarters. But the Knights made seven free throws down the stretch and outscored Hanover 15-7 in the final minutes to bring hardware to Victoria.
“Senior year, any hardware’s pretty nice,” Corley said. “Third place wasn’t what we wanted, but we’ll take it. It’s better than nothing, right?”
Eric McAlonan finished with a game-high 21 points, just outpacing Dortland’s 19 points and four 3-pointers. Corley added 14 points, including six charities and 10 rebounds. Dortland and Corley played all 32 minutes.
“The boys know they’ve been in big games before, they thrive under that pressure, they like to have that,” Dronberger said. “It may not seem like it at times, but they’re by far one of the funnest teams to coach and have that experience with. They want to have that, they want the ball in their hand.”
Victoria 63, Hanover 60
Victoria 25 14 9 15 — 63
Hanover 14 20 13 13 — 60
Victoria — McAlonan 21, Dortland 19, Corley 14, Brungardt 9.
Hanover — W. Bruna 10, Lohse 6, M. Jueneman 18, Pralle 10, Stallbaumer 2, D. Jueneman 10, C. Bruna 4.