HUGOTON — It’s not the same Hugoton Eagles girls basketball team that terrorized southwest Kansas for the past four seasons, but the Garden City Buffaloes discovered Tuesday night there’s still some fight left in the Eagles.
That was never more apparent than down the stretch as the Eagles rallied from a late second quarter deficit and then held off the Buffs for a 50-44 non-league win at the Hugoton gym.
With departed graduated stars Katy Hager (Kansas Miss Basketball), Amy Scott and a cast of others, this season was to be the time for senior Dallie Hoskinson to take center stage.
But the all-state candidate tore her ACL in the opening four minutes of the season’s first game and is out for the season.
So with new coach Emmanuel Adigun and a newly-configured roster and lineup, the Eagles have managed to put together a modest three-game winning streak and now own a 9-6 season record.
The Buffs, meanwhile, once again struggled with their shooting, going only 17 of 55 (31 percent), and it proved costly in the closing minutes after they had trimmed a 37-30 third-quarter deficit to 42-41 with 5:40 to play.
But the Eagles rattled off six straight points, including a dagger 3-pointer by Hoskinson’s twin sister, Laney, with 5:19 to play. The Eagles signed off by making 5-of-7 free throws in the last three minutes to ice the victory.
For senior Brooklyn Harper, the win was another confidence builder in a season that has gone sour with injuries. The Eagles also were missing freshman starter McKenna Hamlin, who injured a shoulder in Friday’s win over Goodland.
“Everybody’s just stepping up and doing what they can to help us win,” said Harper, who finished with 11 points. “When we lost Dallie, it was a big loss, and me and Laney had to become more of a scorer. She hits the 3s (3 of 5) and I’m more of a driver.”
Harper said that their inside players have also had to shoulder more responsibilities as well.
“The bigs have done a good job with rebounding and we’ve all played better defense,” Harper said of senior JoHanna Rawlins, who despite foul troubles, had nine points and eight rebounds. “Defensively, we’re just trying to create pressure and force teams into turnovers.”
Hugoton’s new coach, Adigun, also echoed Harper’s thoughts about all the adjustments the Eagles have had to make this season.
“Despite everything, we’re having a lot of fun, and I think it’s a credit to these girls who have taken on new roles and have had to play through adversity,” Adigun said. “It’s been enjoyable to watch them grow.”
Adigun said it had been a different player almost every game who has stepped up and led the team.
“It changes every night, with a different scorer,” Adigun said. “We’re just trying to take one game, one possession and get better.”
Hoskinson led the Eagles with 13 points while Harper was right behind with 11. Josie Calzonetti led all scorers for Garden City with 17 points, but was just 6 of 22 from the field.
Garden coach Matt Pfeifer once again bemoaned the poor shooting of his team.
“We’re getting good shots, but they’re just not going down,” Pfeifer said. “Our kids are playing hard. We’re just missing some assignments here and there that are costly.”
The Buffs did win the rebounding battle, 36-31, with Calzonetti getting eight.
While the Garden girls got off to a solid start, taking an early 6-2 lead in the opening period, the host Eagles were slow to get out of the gate.
After a 6-5 lead midway through the first, the Buffs finished on a 6-0 run to take a 12-5 lead after one.
Things heated up in the second, however, as the Eagles took advantage of some full-court pressure, erupting for 21 points, getting 12 off of Garden miscues.
The Buffs’ biggest lead was at 15-7, only to have the Eagles rally to go up 16-15. From there, it was a back-and-forth scoring affair, as Garden’s Beth Guymon heated up with a trio of 3-pointers that kept the visitors on top most of the way.
A mini 6-2 run in the final 53 seconds, though, allowed the Eagles to knot the score at 26 heading to the intermission.
Garden will return home for a 6 p.m. Friday game against Great Bend to celebrate homecoming in a Western Athletic Conference matchup. The Buffs are 0-4 in the WAC in the double round-robin schedule. Hugoton will travel to Colby on Friday night.