HOLCOMB — The Hugoton girls will be making their fifth straight appearance in a state tournament after overcoming a sluggish start Saturday against Pratt to take a 42-29 victory at the Holcomb Class 4A-II sub-state.
The Eagles overcame a 13-12 halftime deficit (yes, 13-12) to finally get the shots to fall in the second half, and the defense put the skids on any Pratt threat in the final minutes to earn the return trip to state in Emporia starting Wednesday.
Through the stretch of state-tourney runs, the Eagles have lost in the first round of 4A-II (2014), won 4A-II (2015), placed third in 4A-II (2016) and won 3A with an unbeaten record in Hutchinson (2017). Now, it's back to White Auditorium.
Down one at halftime, the Eagles regained the lead on JoHanna Rawlins’ free throws, and that set the tone for the rest of the period.
Over the next eight minutes, Hugoton surrendered all of seven points and two rebounds, taking a 28-20 lead at the break.
In the final quarter, with a 36-22 lead, Hugoton was content to run a slow-down offense, and the defense shut down Pratt on the other end, holding the Greenbacks to only three field goals and 11 points over a 14-minute stretch to take a 41-24 lead.
Pratt scored on some late baskets down the stretch with the outcome already determined, giving them only five goals in the entire second half.
Hugoton finished with just 10 total goals (five 3-pointers and 10 of 36 overall), but they were 19 of 28 from the free throw line, while Pratt was just 7 of 11 from the stripe.
What a difference a half made.
The score was 4-0 for Hugoton before Pratt scored its first points, a field goal by Reagan Hoover, the Greenbacks’ only score of the quarter, which saw the Eagles hold a 7-2 lead.
Pratt was just 1 of 11 from the field, while the Eagles were 3 of 13.
It took three more minutes into the second period before Pratt would get its second score, but once they did, they turned the tables on Hugoton and outscored the top-seed 11-5 to hold a 13-12 edge at halftime.
Pratt was 4 of 9 from the floor in that quarter, while it was Hugoton’s turn to go cold, going 1 of 15, a Molly McClure trey.
A lot of missed balls meant a lot of rebounds, and Hugoton held a 20-14 edge in that category at the break.
What did Adigun tell his team at halftime of such a low-scoring game?
“I felt that we defended pretty well in that first half,” he said. “I did think we started to get out of our pace offensively; we started to press the issue and it didn’t work for us.”
He reminded the team at halftime to trust the pace of play and things would work.
“I accepted some of my kids and they accepted the challenge,” he said.
The defense also stepped up, out-boarding Pratt 10-2, taking advantage of a size advantage, as well as stepping up the defensive pressure.
“I thought that we could pressure them. I thought we could get to their shooters, play one-on-one with our posts,” Adigun said.
Once they got the lead in the final quarter, it was spread it out and kill the clock.
“I told them let’s just dictate the tempo, let’s dictate the pace,” he said. “We don’t have to rush anything. We’re in control. It was all about control the pace tonight.”
It was also about getting the win with a new coach for a team used to making the trip to state.
“There was so much emotion to the game, that being my former team just a year ago,” Hugoton coach Emmanuel Adigun said.
“My seniors, who went through so much, enduring an injury to our best player (Dallie Hoskinson), their sister, the ups and downs trying to buy into a new system, trying to buy into a new voice — for them to finish that second half is just a huge testament to them. I’m proud of them.”
Those seniors — Brooklynn Harper, Rawlins and Laney Hoskinson — scored 13 points in the fourth quarter and 25 in the second half.
Harper led with 11 points, Hoskinson nine and Rawlins seven.
“I’m happy for them,” Adigun said of those three and his three other seniors. “I know how much this means to them.”
Pratt, which finished the season 10-12, got 10 points from Kaitlyn Rasmussen.
The last time the Hugoton girls faced Pratt, it was in the sub-state finals in 2015.
The Eagles won that game, 50-47, taking them to the state Class 4A-II tournament, which they won.
That Pratt team’s head coach was Emmanuel Adigun. So Adigun was no stranger to his opponent in Saturday’s sub-state final, nor was his new team a stranger to winning the game that would take them to state.
Hugoton (15-7), the number-four seed, will face fifth-seed Baxter Springs (13-9) Wednesday at 8:15 p.m. in the first round of state.
In the next few days, Adigun said they’ll be getting some rest and get prepared for their first round contest.
“We don’t really want to mess with too much,” he said. “Every team we play is going to pose a threat.”