By KEVIN THOMPSON
LAKIN — Don't look now, but the Hugoton girls are on a roll.
They defeated Lakin in the final regular season game 49-30 for its ninth straight win.
Hugoton, now winners of 11 of its last 12 games, came in with high hopes of making a statement of solidarity and confidence against an upstart Lakin squad that itself has won eight of its last 12 games following a 1-7 start to the season.
The Lady Eagles' tall and tougher defense created 19 Lakin turnovers in the first half — thanks in part to a tight full court press — and a 21-9 lead at the break. The only glitch in Hugoton's game during that half was 15 turnovers of its own.
Lakin got its press defense working in the third quarter created turnover havoc on Hugoton and the Lady Broncs cut the lead down to eight twice, but the Eagles threw on the press again and turnovers killed Lakin again.
It was more of the same in the final quarter as Hugoton picked up its ninth straight win and momentum as it hosts Cheney on Tuesday in sub-state. But it wasn't quite the full-steam-ahead momentum they wanted as they committed too many turnovers (29) and missed too many easy shots.
"We played sloppy, and I give Lakin credit for playing scrappy," Hugoton coach Lee Gillen said. "We did find a way to win, which is good. But they know in the locker room that they can't play that way. We just need to focus and be ready for Monday (for sub-state)."
Stef Armendariz came off the bench to lead the Eagles with 10 points, while Miranda Ramsey added nine.
The week off might have affected his team's sharpness, Gillen said, but fortunately his bench played well.
"This is one of those games where we put it behind us and work hard this weekend and get ready for Monday," Gillen said.
Lakin committed too many turnovers, as well (35) and didn't convert on enough possessions (16-of-72), but assistant coach Mandy Michaelis said they are focusing on what DID work, not on what didn't.
"We told the girls that aside from the first quarter and making a few turnovers here and there, we did some really good things," she said.
The full-court press in the third period and cutting the leads down to eight points show the Broncs that they can get the job done, she said. It's just something they'll need to make happen Tuesday as they travel to Holcomb to open sub-state play.
Mariah Hill led Lakin with 14 points, but no other Lady Bronc had more than five points.
Lakin was also just 4-of-16 from the line.
For Gillen, though, the win and the winning streak are indicators of the team he knew he would have this season. He just didn't realize this ride would be so good.
Gillen took over a struggling program that had just come off a 0-19 season. The first year, they won three games, last year five.
That's what makes this year so rewarding for him as a coach, Gillen said, but more for the girls, who have finally found success because they believe they can win.
Balance has been a key element in Hugoton's success, both with the inside and outside game as well as with what has become a solid defense.
"I didn't know a whole lot of what was coming up," he said, "but all through my coaching (39 years, to be exact), it's always been about the challenge. I knew it was going to take a lot of hard work."
That hard work has paid off. Coming in to this season, Gillen knew they'd have a decent year, but just how good was up in the air. Overcoming a non-winning attitude was the key, and winning, ironically, has taught them how to win.
After a loss in the Orange and Black Classic in Colby, Hugoton was 5-5. A team meeting the following morning, which included some goal setting, put Hugoton on the winning track.
Credit to the Lady Eagles for getting to host a sub-state game for the first time this century.
Gillen took over when Ramsey and Fantasia Easton were sophomores and both have grown both on the court and off. That's the kind of attitude he likes to see players develop because of basketball.
"I'm really proud of them and I'm happy for them," he said. "We want to end on a positive note, but what that means remains to be seen."
Hugoton 10 11 16 12 -- 49
Lakin 2 7 16 5 -- 30
Hugoton (49) — Armendariz 3 4-4 10, Hoskinson 2 1-2 5, Parsons 1 0-0 3, Mueller 1 1-2 3, Kinser 3 2-4 8, Easton 4 0-0 8, Ramsey 2 5-7 9, Sosa 1 0-0 3. Totals 17 13-19 49.
Lakin (30) — Williams 1 1-4 3, Hill 6 2-3 14, Davidson 1 0-0 2, Rogers 2 1-6 5, Watkins 1 0-3 2, Armstrong 1 0-0 2, Richter 1 0-0 2. Totals 13 4-16 30.
3-point goals - Hugoton 2 (Parsons 1, Sosa 1), Lakin 0.