By BRETT MARSHALL
PARK CITY — It had been 21 years since the Hugoton Lady Eagles qualified for a state basketball tournament.
And while they came up short in only their second trip to the big dance, they plan on making a run over the next several seasons.
This time, it was Holton which got the upper hand, finishing with a 53-41 victory over a gallant effort by the shorter Lady Eagles in the first round of the Class 4A-II state playoffs.
Wednesday night, at Hartman Arena, the Lady Eagles saw too much of 5-10 senior Kyrstie Miller and 5-4 freshman guard Ashlyn Weilert.
The Lady Eagles had compiled one of the school's best seasons on record and a big part of that was a trio of freshmen. And while they had their moments, especially 5-5 guard Katy Heger, they weren't enough to offset a decided height disadvantage.
Hugoton and Holton were running neck and neck for a good part of the first half and into the early portions of the third quarter.
Holton had taken an early 10-5 lead after one quarter, and owned a 24-18 halftime lead.
Heger had 14 of her 25 points in the first half, and was the main reason the Lady Eagles were within range of the Lady Wildcats.
With 5:05 left in the third, the Lady Eagles were down 31-27 when Heger drilled a 3-pointer from the wing. It was still four, 35-31, but a pair of 3-point daggers by Ashlyn Weilert provided Holton with a 10-point advantage, 41-31, at the quarter's end.
The final eight minutes, though, the height advantage for Holton and the physicality of the players became too much for the Lady Eagles.
"Their physicality finally caught up to us," said Hugoton head coach Andy Gillen. "We're a young team, and we'll take this and learn from it. We wanted to take it one step further than last year, and we did. Now, we want to take it one step further next year."
Holton opened the fourth on a 10-2 run before a late flurry of eight points by Hugoton closed the deficit to 10, 51-41.
Heger, who was 6 of 13 from the field, including 3 of 6 behind the arc and 10-of-13 free throws, finished with a game-high 25 points. Amy Scott, another of the stellar freshmen, added nine points.
For Holton, it was freshman Ashlyn Weilert, who had 24 points off an amazing 6-of-7 3-pointers, that made the difference. Fourteen of those points came in the pivotal third quarter as she drilled those two deadly treys at the end of the period. Miller, meanwhile, had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Holton, despite a big height edge, only won the board battle 30-25.
"I think everything just wore on us, especially their physical advantage," Gillen said. "It took us away from our attack mode, which is what we do best."
And the scoring burst by Weilert was something that Gillen had not seen in the scouting report and on film.
"Sometimes when you go to state, you just have to be prepared for players to do something out of the ordinary, and that's what she did," Gillen said of the younger Weilert. "We didn't have an answer for that — and Miller."
Holton, the No. 6 seed, now faces Frontenac (21-2) at 6:30 p.m. Friday in one semifinal, while the other two top seeds, Burlington and Santa Fe Trail, advanced with wins of 40-34 over Clay Center and 46-34 over Pratt, respectively.
Class 4A-II Boys Note: Scott City's boys will open play today at 6:30 p.m. against Pratt as the Beavers seek their fourth consecutive state title after claiming the last three in Class 3A.
Holton 10 14 18 12 -- 53
Hugoton 5 13 13 10 -- 41
Holton (16-7) — A. Weilert 7-13 4-4 24, Boswell 1-4 0-0 2, Miller 6-20 3-4 16, Thompson 2-8 2-2 6, T. Weilert 1-1 2-2 4, McManigal 0-1 0-0 0, Snepp 1-2 0-0 2, Degendardt 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-51 10-12 53.
Hugoton (19-4) — Armendariz 1-2 0-1 2, Scott 3-9 3-3 9, Pena 1-1 0-0 3, Heger 6-13 10-13 25, Sosa 0-4 0-0 0, Fabela 1-6 0-0 2, Cornelson 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 12-37 13-17 41.
3-point goals--Holton 7-16 (A. Weilert 6-7, Boswell 0-1, Miller 1-7, Degendardt 0-1), Hugoton 4-16 (Scott 0-1, Pena 1-1, Heger 3-6, Sosa 0-3, Fabela 0-4, Cornelson 0-1). Rebounds--Holton 30 (Miller 10), Hugoton 25 (Sosa 5). Turnovers--Holton 17, Hugoton 21. Fouls--Holton 13, Hugoton 12. Fouled out--Hugoton (Heger). Technical fouls--none.