Unbeaten Hoxie shuts down Sterling, advances to 2A semis

Rick Peterson Jr.
Hays Daily News
Hoxie's Caden White celebrates a bucket in Monday's 2A quarterfinal against Sterling.
Hoxie's Harlan Obioha looks to score in the post against Sterling Monday in Colby.
Hoxie players celebrate a run during Monday's quarterfinal win against Sterling.

COLBY — Sure, Hoxie 7-footer Harlan Obioha had a lot to do with Sterling’s offensive struggles in Monday's Class 2A quarterfinal. 

But even when Obioha wasn't in the game, the Indians’ defense was just as impressive, locking down the Black Bears in a 47-34 win at Colby Community Building. 

After trailing 15-14 at the end of the first quarter, Hoxie pitched a shutout in the second quarter and never let Sterling regain its offensive rhythm.

The 24-0 Indians will advance to the 2A semis to meet Wabaunsee (12-12) at 3 p.m. Thursday at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan. 

Sterling’s scoreless second quarter came with Obioha sitting for all but a minute and 55 seconds of the period. 

Hoxie coach Jake Moss said it hasn’t been uncommon to see the Indians maintain or stretch leads when their star big man goes to the bench. 

"We have such a veteran group, and different guys step up every night," Moss said. "He comes out, and it's just like our guys turn it up another notch. That's something we've done time and time again."

The Indians held Sterling senior standout Tyus Wilson in check with seven points. Wilson is a state champion high jumper who has signed with the University of Nebraska for track and field. 

"Gavin Tremblay drew a big assignment on him," Moss said. "Gavin's 5-(foot)-8, and Wilson is 6-6, but we also had help from behind. And so Gavin could go play his style, knowing he had help in certain areas. Hats off, I thought we did a great job defensively."

Obioha finished with 14 points to lead a balanced Hoxie attack. Miles Baalman added nine points on three 3-pointers and Ashton Dowell finished with seven. 

Hoxie hit seven 3-pointers, with the first one coming from Obioha. 

"A lot of times we just say: pick your poison," Moss said. "We have different guys step up, and that's what makes us tough."

Despite a quick turnaround from Saturday night's sub-state final win over Ellis, the Indians were full of energy from the get-go. They traded shots with the Black Bears (18-6) early before taking a six-point lead into halftime after a 7-0 second quarter. 

"You're coming off a sub-state championship and emotions are high, and you've got to turn around and get focused again," Moss said. "Our guys, again, did a really good job of that."

Hoxie finished the third quarter on a 7-0 run to take a 35-21 lead into the fourth and maintained the double-digit advantage. 

The game was played at Colby Community Building instead of Hoxie to allow for a bigger crowd.

"Our crowd brought it tonight and they were awesome,” Moss said.

Wabaunsee knocked off 17-win Valley Falls on Monday to set up a semifinal matchup with the Indians. The other semifinal Thursday pits Hillsboro (21-2) vs. Lyndon (19-4). 

Moss said the Indians are thrilled to return to Bramlage Coliseum, where they took a 50-47 loss to Garden Plain in the state quarterfinals last year after leading for most of the second half.

"These seniors wrote on the board, 'Garden Plain 50, Hoxie 47,' " Moss said. "... These guys were determined to get back (to Bramlage) and play another game. I know the whole team was hungry to get back.”