HUGOTON — It’s a Tuesday night in early February, and a home game for the Hugoton Eagles girls basketball team.
The opponent on this night will be the Class 6A Garden City Buffaloes, and the defending Class 3A state champion Eagles have put together a modest two-game winning streak entering this non-league contest.
The then 8-6 record (now 10-6) for the Eagles, who are now being guided by first-year coach Emmanuel Adigun, belies just how much this group of girls has accomplished and the obstacles for which they have continued to overcome.
Two hours prior to tipoff, senior twin sisters Dallie and Laney Hoskinson arrive at the HHS gym.
But Dallie would not be in uniform, sitting on the bench next to assistant coach Jeff Ramsey, a place she would never have expected to be.
Four minutes into the season-opening game on a Thursday — Dec. 7, 2017 — Dallie was defending a Guymon, Okla. player on the baseline, and while moving backward, fell to the floor, writhing in pain.
“The knee just popped,” Dallie said in recalling what would be a season-ending ACL tear in her right knee. “I was just trying to cut the girl off at the baseline. It was the worst pain I ever felt in my life. I knew it was bad, and I just slammed my hand on the floor.”
The extent of her injury was not fully diagnosed until four days later. An MRI revealed the tear of the anterior cruciate ligament, as well as a partial tear of the meniscus.
“A lot of tears, I just started crying and couldn’t stop,” said Dallie. “If I dwell on it too much, it still gets to me.”
Losing Dallie for the season isn’t just like losing any player, and it came at a time when the Eagles were just getting started with Adigun, who replaced the highly-successful Andy Gillen. Add in an almost entirely new starting lineup, and this was to be Dallie’s team.
Yes, she would have senior teammates Brooklyn Harper and JoHanna Rawlins returning for the 2017-18 season, but by all rights, this would be the team Dallie would lead.
“Everything was going through Dallie when we had our summer ball,” Ramsey said. “Everybody had their new role, and we were excited by the possibilities of having something special again.”
In her first three seasons playing for the Eagles, Dallie had made her mark while helping her team to a pair of state championships (4A-II in 2015 and 3A in 2017, along with a third-place in 2016 in 4A-II). Laney had been a reserve on each of those teams.
For three years, Dallie played alongside Katy Heger and Amy Scott, a class ahead, and with those two formed a formidable trio that terrorized opposing teams. Another departed senior, Sydney Hein, had transferred to Hugoton for her final season in high school.
All three of those — Heger, Scott and Hein — went on to play collegiate ball this season. Heger, who was voted Kansas Miss Basketball by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association, is now at Washburn University, Scott at nationally-ranked NJCAA Seward County in Liberal, and Hein is playing at Oklahoma Baptist.
To be certain and not to be understated, Dallie was making her mark alongside her elder teammates.
Through three complete seasons, Dallie had scored 910 points (now 912 after a bucket just before her injury), and she had recorded a school-record 587 rebounds (7.8 rpg), despite her 5-foot-6 stature and playing guard. She also had dished out 333 assists (12 shy of Scott’s four-year school mark) and had 347 steals (five short of Heger’s four-year school record).
The night of the injury, and in the immediate moments following, twin sister Laney looked in shock at her sister who was laying on the floor, holding her knee.
“We had the steal, but then I looked at Brooklyn, and thought, ‘Oh gosh!’” Laney said. “It reminded me when another of our teammates had suffered a similar injury a couple of years ago. Honestly, it took us awhile for things to soak it in.”
Laney recalled that the team huddled with their new coach and assistant, and determined that they needed to regroup and just go play.
“We all had to step up, but it took us awhile,” Laney said. “We’ve definitely improved, and I think lately we’ve improved a lot more.”
The night of the injury, Laney stepped up in a big way, scoring a team-high 17 points to help the Eagles to a win over Guymon. The Eagles followed that with a victory in the Red & Blue Classic semis, only to lose in the championship game. That set the early-season struggles in motion as they lost four of their next six games.
“Coach (Adigun) was just telling us what each of us needed to be doing, and that helped us a lot,” Laney said of those first few games. “We just kind of rallied around each other. We wanted to honor Dallie and play the way she would have — never give up when adversity hits.”
Since the mid-season struggles, they have strung together four straight wins, with their only loss to 5A Liberal (15-1).
“They struggled on offense early on,” Dallie said of her teammates. “Their defense has definitely improved. They were all a little timid at first. But they’ve been pretty darned good. Our freshmen (two starters) have stepped up and we’ve got some really good young kids playing.”
Laney said her game has improved on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.
“Defense is where I’ve gotten better the most,” Laney said. “I much prefer to play the shooting guard position.”
Dallie said she was impressed and happy about how much her sister has played such a pivotal role in the team’s progression this season.
“Teams were leaving her wide open and she would just fire away,” Dallie said of her sister, who scored 13 points on this Tuesday night in a victory over Garden City. “She’s learning that she’s gonna have to drive the ball more, but she’s been better at it the last couple of games.”
The twins were born in Liberal on Sept. 30, 1999, just 30 seconds apart, with Dallie being the first born of the two.
“Dallie’s always been the more aggressive, assertive,” Laney said of her barely older sister. “I’ve been a bit more quiet, but now I’ve had to take on a more vocal role, something she was just starting doing more.”
Dallie said that her sister has exhibited the ability to make clutch 3-pointers, and has used quick hands to improve her steals while working within the team’s offensive and defensive sets.
Two months after the injury, though, Dallie still struggles with the fact that she has had to watch from the sidelines on what was to have been a special senior season.
“I really miss being on the court,” Dallie said. “It’s the most fun place to be for me. I miss playing with my teammates and I miss being able to contribute.”
Still, she has learned much by observing from the bench.
“I see the game in a much different way,” Dallie said. “I can see where people are supposed to be. I hear the coaches giving instructions and I understand better why they say certain things. I think it will help me more down the road.”
Down the road for Dallie will be playing next year at Johnson County Community College, an NJCAA Division II national powerhouse.
“It’s the best fit for me,” she said. “They’ve really had good success, and the coach there has had a lot of success in getting players to the (NCAA) Division I level.”
Laney also plans to attend Johnson County, but will serve as the team’s manager.
What drove a guard to accomplishing so much in so many different statistical categories?
“I think I just wanted it more than others,” Dallie said, emphasizing the rebounding record she now holds. “I wanted to be the best at anything I did.”
Her twin echoed Dallie’s sentiment.
“We don’t like to lose, and we’re both going to do everything we can to help our team win,” Laney said.
Now without crutches, and on the mend, Dallie hopes to get the first release by early March to begin some light rehab exercises.
“Do what the doctor tells me, lean on my family and friends, and trust in God,” said Dallie of the things that she has learned the most through this trying time.
Laney said that she and her teammates have become stronger emotionally and psychologically through the past two months.
“We’ve just learned to push through and I think we’ve shown a lot of guts to get through this,” Laney said. “We all know how important Dallie was going to be to the team. But the best thing we can do is what we’re doing now. We’re all out there giving it our best shot. We still want to get back to the state tournament.”
And perhaps that’s the lesson to be learned from this injury to one of the best players in Kansas, and how her teammates have rallied, and how she has inspired them to still be competitive.