The free throw line was a good place to be for Maize’s Jacob Horsch on Saturday night. The senior scored 11 of his 13 points from the line in Maize’s 49-42 come-from-behind win over Hutchinson in a Class 6A sub-state final to advance to the state tournament.
“My hands were getting really sweaty, it was a lot of pressure, but we practice free throws every day during practice, so I knew I could come through,” Horsch said.
After falling to Maize twice this season, Hutch turned up its defense and made a statement early. The Salthawks forced five turnovers in the first quarter and three more in the second, while turning the ball over only three times in the first half.
“There’s a lot more on the line,” Maize coach Chris Davis said. “When you’re playing to go to a state tournament, you’ve got to leave it all on the floor, and we didn’t leave it all on the floor in the first half; it took us a while to wake up.”
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Maize trailed Hutch by three points at the end of the first quarter then cut the deficit to two with 2:58 remaining in the second quarter.
But each time Maize came within reach of Hutch, the Salthawks hit a three-pointer. Ryan Stoecklein had two three-pointers in the first half, with Trent Webster and Kalen Hilst adding one each. Hutch’s timely threes, in conjunction with its defense keeping Maize from scoring any field goals in the second quarter, led to the Salthawks’ seven-point halftime lead.
Maize cut Hutch’s lead to four by the end of the third period, but Maize could not break Hutch’s lead.
“I didn’t ever think we were going to break that three-point barrier. It seemed like it was three forever, but we just kept getting stop after stop after stop, and that was big. We finally converted,” Davis said.
The Eagles inched within two points with a steal by Horsch and a layup from Connor Eleeson, but Hutch’s Kalen Hilst scored a pair of free throws to give the Salthawks a four-point lead. Maize’s Aaron Shaw missed the second of his two free throws, cutting the deficit again to three, but Hutch’s Jezel Parra answered with two free throws, a five-point lead and 4:21 remaining in the game.
“We had a nice lead in the third quarter, and we just sputtered offensively,” Hutch coach Nathan Henry said. “Our defense was great tonight we limited them, taking away what they wanted to do. But for whatever reason we sputtered offensively, and couldn’t make those baskets in the fourth quarter to stretch that lead, and that ultimately ended up being the game.”
Shaw answered 31 seconds later with a three-pointer, jump starting a 12-0 run that ended with 30 seconds remaining and Maize leading 45-38. Maize finished with four more free throws, answering Hutch’s two field goals.
The Eagles will go to the state tournament for the first time since 2010.
“We talk about all the time putting a banner up on the wall, and now we have the chance to do that. We put ourselves in a great position here,” Horsch said.
Hutchinson: Wells 4, Webster 3, Hilst 9, Stoecklein 14, Parra 12, Arnold 0, Norman 0, McQueen 0, Faucett 0. Totals 16 (4) 6-10 42.
Maize: Jobe 2, Shaw 18, Lungwitz 9, Horsch 13, Wilcox 2, Eleeson 4, Engler 1, Johnson 0, Binder 0. Totals 12 (2) 23-29 49.