AUGUSTA — In his 14 years at Haven, Dwight Roper has built his girls basketball team's foundation on defense.
After instilling that attitude for so many years, it prepared the Wildcats for their 29-22 victory over Hesston in a Class 4A sub-state championship at Augusta.
When the offense disappeared, Haven kept steady by standing strong with its defense.
"You can never have an off-game on defense," Haven senior Sage Ezell said, one of Roper's rules to live by. "You just have to just out there and work hard. It's all about heart and wanting to."
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Haven advanced to its first state tournament since 1997 — Roper's first year coaching at the school.
"When you get there, you don't realize how hard it is to get back," Roper said. "This is pretty special."
The offense in the game never flowed, a testament to each team's defense and all also the fact it was the third meeting of the season. The teams combined to make 14 of 65 in the game.
"I jokingly told them we had them right where wanted them," Roper said after his team led 3-2 after the first quarter.
Haven essentially won the game with a 10-2 run stretching the third and fourth quarter to take a 25-14 lead with four minutes remaining.
"Neither of us could get points on the board to save our lives," said Haven sophomore Ashley Rogers, who scored a game-high 11 points. "We really got in a groove during that run."
It's tough to explain how a team that made 24 percent of its shots (6 of 25) and turned the ball over 14 times can earn a berth to state. Haven had a simple answer — its defense.
"If we play great defense, then we know that our offense will come," said Ezell.
Hesston (16-7) 2 2 8 10 -- 22 Haven (20-3) 3 6 8 12 -- 29
HESSTON: McCartney 8, Short 8, Spencer 4, Weaver 2. Totals 8 (1) 5-11 22.
HAVEN: Rogers 11, Miller 8, Davis 6, Preisser 4. Totals 6 (1) 16-21 29.