7-footer Harlan Obioha, Hoxie hold off TMP

Rick Peterson Jr.
Hays Daily News

ELLIS — After giving up 34 points to Harlan Obioha in last week’s matchup with Hoxie, the Monarch boys employed a new strategy in defending the Indians’ 7-footer in the rematch. 

TMP-Marian's Dylan Werth is guarded by Hoxie 7-footer Harlan Obioha on Friday in the MCL Tournament semifinals at Ellis.
TMP's Kade Harris attempts an off-balance shot inside on Friday against Hoxie.

TMP-Marian came out in a zone in Friday's Mid-Continent League Tournament semifinal, fronting Obioha and putting another defender behind him. 

That method seemed to be effective early, but the Monarchs were forced to abandon it once Hoxie's guards stepped up to hit shots. 

Hoxie closed the first half on a 10-0 run to take the halftime lead and stayed in control in the second half, advancing to the Mid-Continent League Tournament final.

The Indians were set to play WaKeeney-Trego in the tournament title game Saturday night in Ellis. The Monarchs (8-3) were set to meet Ellis for third place Saturday afternoon in Ellis. 

Obioha finished with 24 points, 15 rebounds and 5 blocks. He was held scoreless in the first quarter before scoring 11 in the second period and putting up 13 in the second half. 

“I think (the way of defending) Obioha was working for us. The problem was they made a few plays and got the score stretched,” TMP coach Bill Meagher said. “We felt like at that point we had to get out of zone and go to man and just attack from that point on.

“I liked what our guys did early (against Obioha), and I think that can be a really nice tool for us down the stretch. But when that score got stretched we had to try something different.”

The Monarchs, who took a 60-54 loss to Hoxie on Jan. 12, opened up a 13-6 advantage by the end of the first quarter and led for the majority of the first half before an Obioha bucket started the 10-0 spurt that gave Hoxie a 24-20 halftime lead. 

Hoxie, 9-0 and top-ranked in Class 2A, then quickly built the lead to 15 early in the third quarter. 

“At halftime, we said, ‘Keep firing. Once we get one or two to fall for us, that’s going to be huge,' ” Hoxie coach Jake Moss said. “We did in that second half. We got them out of that zone and forced them back to man, and then we could isolate (Obioha) down low.”

The Monarchs made a couple strong pushes, slicing the deficit down to five by the end of the third quarter. 

After Hoxie pushed the lead to 13 in the fourth, TMP clawed back to get within four with 1:24 left after a 9-0 run, including 3s from Jackson Schulte and Kenton Ginther.  

But the Indians got a bucket from Obioha inside to create some breathing room before putting TMP away. 

“We just let them get too many runs stacked up too much,” Meagher said. “It takes energy to get back in, and we just ran out of energy at the end.”

Obioha was joined in double figures by Caden White (14), Gavin Tremblay (10) and Ashton Dowell (10). 

“As much as the focus is on the big guy, I think people lose focus on how good their guards are,” Meagher said of the Indians. 

Obioha, who is also being recruited by major Division I schools in football, showed off his vision and passing ability when TMP collapsed on him in the post. 

“He has the size you can’t teach, and he’s going to have to develop some other skills, but his passing and his vision are what sets him apart as a big man,” Moss said. “At the next level, that’s going to be really valuable for some team. It’s really valuable for us because it’s so much attention that he draws. Our guys are starting to figure out that it opens up more stuff for them.”

 Schulte led TMP with 18, while Lucas Lang added 15 and Dylan Werth finished with 10.