Collegiate’s girls entered the Class 4A-Division II tournament as the only team in the field with a losing record.
But the Spartans looked like anything but an eighth seed Wednesday night, taking brief leads in the second and early in the third quarter before top-seeded Hugoton’s shots started to fall. Hugoton, benefiting from a banked-in three-pointer by Kathryn Heger as the third quarter buzzer sounded, managed to hold off Collegiate 53-39.
The Eagles (22-1), who will play fifth-seeded Clay Center in the semifinals Friday, shot just 18 percent from the field in the first half yet managed a 22-21 halftime advantage.
Hugoton outscored Collegiate 31-18 after halftime, hitting 10 of 14 free throws and holding a 22-13 rebounding advantage to slowly pull away. The Eagles held the Spartans (9-14) to six points in the fourth quarter.
Collegiate first-year coach Greg Lower said second-chance opportunities proved to be the key.
“We knew that they were going to be tough on the boards, because they’re so quick on their feet, they’re hard to catch on the box-out,” he said. “We were concentrating on that; we just didn’t do a good job.”
Hugoton made three three-point shots in each half, but missed far fewer in the second half.
“We tried to guard the three-point line, and I think we did a good job of that without fouling them, contesting that shot and making them shoot over extended arms,” Lower said. “Luckily, their shots weren’t falling (early), and that’s probably why we stayed close to them.”
Foul trouble hampered Collegiate in the second half. The Spartans were whistled for 10 fouls, compared with two for Hugoton.
“I think that was the difference in the game,” Lower said. “That’s not what we wanted to do. They went on a little spurt that got them some points, and maybe put us into a panic.”
The Spartans lose just one senior, point guard Nia Tolbert, and Lower said just the experience of going to state will pay dividends next year.
“All season long, I had trouble with our confidence and playing in the big games,” he said. “And so, playing in one more big game this season is going to help us for next year.
“These last eight games have been fun, because we’ve competed well.”
Hayden 55, Haven 35 – Haven (18-5) trailed third-seeded Hayden by three points early in the second quarter, but Hayden (20-3) hit three three-pointers in the third quarter – two 21 seconds apart – and managed to pull away for the victory.
Haven rode senior Katelynn Stucky and sophomore Emmiley Hendrixson to stay close in the game. Hendrixson hit eight of her nine points in the first half, and Stucky powered Haven until getting into foul trouble. Haven also committed 26 turnovers.
Haven coach Dwight Roper said he wanted to make Hayden hit the three-pointers, and when those fell, it changed things a lot.
“In the second half, they ran the same play they ran in the first half, and (Hayden) made it,” he said. “You’ve got to give up something to a team when they’re bigger than you at four spots.”
In Friday’s semifinals, Hayden will face second-seeded Girard (21-2), which held Burlington (17-6) to 27.5 percent from the field in a 49-41 victory.