Varsity Kansas has introduced a new series, Moment of the Year. The series will highlight the top moment or performance from the 2017-18 high school sports season for each of the Wichita-area schools. And now, the Halstead Dragons.
Lonnie Lollar galloped down the sideline at the Hutchinson Sports Arena. History was back in Halstead.
The Dragons won the Class 3A boys basketball state championship with a buzzer-beating 44-42 victory over Phillipsburg. The win brought the community together and put Halstead basketball back on the Kansas map.
The win was clinched with one tick left on the clock. Junior point guard Braden Gerber drove to the basket, blew past his Phillipsburg defender and held off a late slide. He bounced the shot off the backboard, and it fell.
With the win, Halstead finished the season 25-2 and the Dragons' eighth state championship in school history and the first since 2001.
In 2016, coach Lonnie Lollar inherited a program that hadn't had a winning season since 2009-10. In his first year at Halstead, the Dragons went 12-11 and built off that with almost the whole roster coming back.
Still, finding players was enough of a struggle. Lollar said he had to pull students out of the hallways to join the basketball team. Lollar said each of them contributed. Some took charges. Others had 20-point nights.
Halstead had a brutal schedule just to get to the state final. In the Dragons' sub-state tournament, they had to face a hot Sedgwick team at home. Once past that, Halstead entered the 3A tournament as the No. 5 seed.
They had to play Caney Valley (21-2) and won by 2. In the semifinals, Halstead faced Maur Hill — the No. 1 team in 3A — and won 63-51 to set up the final.
The championship brought Halstead residents out of the woodwork, players said. They met people they had never seen before and didn't have problems finding prom dates, signifying the importance of basketball in the 2,000-person town.
Other Key Moments
- Halstead's boys cross country team wins the Class 3A state championship for the third time in four years. Junior Andrew O'Brien led the way, finishing 13th at 17:12.7. Junior Joshua Talbott and senior Dakota Blaylock were the Dragons' other top finishers.
- The Halstead girls basketball team finishes the 2017-18 season with an 18-3 record, the Dragons' best mark in more than a decade. Halstead fell victim to a tough sub-state tournament that included Cheney, Haven and others.
- Halstead's boys 4x800-meter relay team finishes second at 8:15.27 behind Scott Community at the Kansas high school track and field meet. The team was made up of Blaylock, O'Brien, Gerber and Talbott.
- The Dragon girls 4x100-meter relay team comes fourth at 50.84 seconds. Halstead's team was composed of freshman Madison McClain, freshman Karenna Gerber, senior Kaytlynn Millspaugh and senior Magdalena McKee.
- Halstead's Talbott finishes fifth in the 3A boys 800 meters at 2:02.75.