By BRETT MARSHALL
SUBLETTE — It was no surprise to Sublette boys basketball coach Justin Moore that Taylor Williamson put together a double-double in Thursday night's non-league game against Hugoton.
After all, the 6-3 senior has been doing it quite frequently for much of the early season schedule.
Thursday was no exception, as Williamson poured in 20 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to help the Larks hold off a never-say-die Eagles team, 78-71, in a game that saw the teams combine to shoot 63 free throws, each making 19 charity shots. There were 50 fouls whistled.
What had Moore smiling in the aftermath of the team's sixth win against just two losses was the way his team fought after suffering a disappointing home loss to Elkhart on Tuesday.
"I'm so proud of the way the boys played tonight, especially after what happened Tuesday (59-55 home loss to Elkhart)," Moore said. "You're never too sure about how kids are going to react, especially with the break coming up, so I was really proud of the effort they gave. We knew Hugoton was going to be a tough match-up. They really scrap with you the whole way."
The Larks never really put the game away until the final minute, when they were up by just four, 75-71. That's when Williamson knocked down a pair of charity shots with 21 seconds remaining, and Johny Martens made 1-of-2 at the line with six seconds on the clock.
"We're never very comfortable it seems with a lead, it's just kinda the way we play," Moore said. "Hugoton is pressing you, and they're always going to the basket, so you know it's going to be a physical game with them."
Indeed it was.
The Eagles were whistled for 27 fouls, with two players exiting the game (Logan Frederick and Reid Davis), while the Larks had 23 whistles blown on them. Five different Larks finished the game with four fouls each, and nobody fouled out of the game for Moore.
"I thought we managed to do a lot of little things right, especially down the stretch when we got the lead," Moore said.
After grabbing a 39-36 halftime lead, the Larks took a 10-point lead near the midpoint of the third, 48-38. Hugoton, though, once again showing resolve, rallied to close within four when Henry Vela knocked down a floater in the lane just before the buzzer, to trim the Sublette lead to 56-52.
In almost a mirror-image of the third quarter, Sublette started the fourth fast once again, moving to a 65-55 lead with just under 6:30 left to play. Hugoton then reeled off 11 points to just two for the Larks, cutting the lead to 67-66 with 4:29 on the clock. The Eagles could never quite get over the hump, however, as Sublette had a scoring response each time Hugoton would close the gap.
"The team is the important thing with this group," Moore said. "Taylor played great, but the other kids really stepped up tonight, too. They busted their tails. It's a great early Christmas present."
After Williamson's 20 points, it was Andrew Lower with 18, Jake Gesling with 15 and Avigael Gonzalez with 12 that provided the scoring punch for the Larks.
"I've told the boys all along that we can score a lot of points, especially if we get the ball into our post players," Moore said. "The 78 points, I believe, is the tip of the iceberg for us. We'll continue to emphasize to the kids to get the ball inside."
Hugoton's Vela grabbed game-high scoring honors with 26, including 12-of-14 free throws. Austin Scott was the only other Hugoton player in double figures, with 15. The Eagles hit a solid 47.2 percent of its field goals (26-of-55) while Sublette knocked down 27-of-50 for a red-hot 54 percent. The Larks owned a 39-29 rebounding advantage with Williamson leading the way. Vela grabbed seven to pace Hugoton. In the turnover department, the Larks were guilty of 22 miscues while the Eagles committed just 12 violations.
Sublette's record improves to 6-2 overall while Hugoton falls to 2-3.
Hugoton 20 16 16 19 -- 71
Sublette 16 23 17 22 -- 78
Hugoton (71) — Frederick 3-7 0-1 6, Sutton 0-7 2-4 2, Rubio 2-2 2-5 6, Vela 7-16 12-14 26, Ross Davis 3-5 0-0 6, Hewitt 0-0 2-2 2, Watkins 0-2 0-0 0, Scott 7-8 1-6 15, Reid Davis 2-3 0-0 4, Decker 2-5 0-0 4. Totals 26-55 19-32 71.
Sublette (78) — Leverett 2-6 1-2 5, Lower 7-11 2-5 18, Gesling 6-8 3-5 15, Williamson 5-11 10-12 20, Martens 0-1 1-1 1, Cearley 1-5 2-4 5, Gonzalez 6-7 0-1 12. Totals 27-50 19-31 78.
3-point goals--Hugoton 0-3 (Frederick 0-1, Sutton 0-1, Vela 0-1), Sublette 3-13 (Leverett 0-3, Lower 2-4, Williamson 0-1, Cearley 1-5). Rebounds--Hugoton 29 (Vela 7), Sublette 39 (Williamson 15). Turnovers--Hugoton 12, Sublette 22. Fouls--Hugoton 27, Sublette 23. Fouled out--Hugoton (Frederick, Reid Davis). Technical fouls--Hugoton (Reid Davis).