The Hugoton girls have made a name for themselves in recent years. That tradition will continue this week, albeit under new guidance.
Under coach Andy Gillen, the Eagles qualified for the state basketball tournament four consecutive years — three times in Class 4A-II and once in Class 3A.
In 2014, they bowed out early, 53-41 to Holton in the first round in 4A-II at Hartman Arena in Park City.
But the next year they won a state title in Class 4A-II and again in 2017 in Class 3A at Hutchinson's Sports Arena.
In between, they finished third in 2016 in 4A-II.
In the 2015, a season where they went 22-2, Hugoton defeated Baldwin, 68-54, to claim their first state crown.
Last year, they completed a perfect 26-0 season with a 59-37 drubbing of Cheney in the 3A title game.
So when those seniors (two of them four-year starters) graduated and Gillen moved on to coach boys at Caney Valley, the question was — what’s next?
The answer: more of the same.
Hugoton completed another Class 4A-II sub-state run last weekend in Holcomb with a 42-29 win over Pratt.
Ironically, Gillen had passed the baton to Pratt head coach Emmanuel Adigun, who has already been to state twice as an assistant and once as a head coach.
Adigun inherited some of the players and the tradition Gillen had developed, including senior Dallie Hoskinson, expected to be one of the top players in Kansas.
But the senior, who had already scored 910 points in three seasons, tore an ACL four minutes into the first game of the season.
And yet, here they are, a fifth straight appearance in the state tournament, returning to Emporia, the site of the Eagles’ first state title.
This will be Hugoton’s sixth state tournament, with the 1993 4A appearance ending in the first round, 38-29 to Kansas City-Piper.
That was a different generation, and the 2018 version is a different vision for Adigun, who spoke after Saturday’s game against his former team of how his new team has come together this season.
“There was so much emotion to the game, that being my former team just a year ago,” Adigun said.
But now he has a new team, and he has them preparing for a state tournament once again, and with a group of experienced girls.
Leading scorer is senior Laney Hoskinson, with 194 points, including 50 3-pointers. JoHanna Rawlins has 188 and Brooklynn Harper has 152.
Jordyn Beard is leading in rebounds (198), Rawlins (153) and Harper (130) right behind her.
Rebecca Johnson leads the team in assists with 62, with Harper adding 55.
Rawlins, Hoskinson and Harper all have 40-plus steals, and Beard (60) and Rawlins (29) lead the team in blocked shots.
So it’s not just one or two players who make the Eagles work; it’s all of them.
“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,” Adigun explained.
Baxter Springs has appeared in the state tournament six times, three times in the 1980s and once in 1994 in Class 4A, and return trips in 2006 and 2007 in Class 3A.
All six of their trips have resulted in first-round losses. But that doesn’t mean anything at this stage, Adigun said.
By all reports, Baxter Springs is a well-coached team that beat some teams down the stretch to whom they had lost earlier.
“That tells me they’re a team that’s able to make adjustments to fit their personnel,” Adigun said.
Round one will be all about pace, he said.
“They like to play a little bit slower of a pace, whereas we like to play a little bit faster,” he said. “It’ll be about who can impose their pace.
Hugoton’s experience with the older players who have been to state should help his younger players get over the newness of state, Adigun added.
“Most importantly, it’s going to be about discipline. Wednesday night’s game will come down to which team can be disciplined for the longest time,” he said.
The Eagles, the No. 4 seed, would advance to Friday's semifinals with an opening-round win, at 6:30 p.m. Friday against the winner of top-seeded Baldwin (21-1) vs. Frontenac (9-13).