EMPORIA – Hugoton’s offense came in spurts Wednesday, including a pivotal 12-0 run at the start of the fourth quarter.
But the Eagles’ defense was a constant, with Hugoton holding Baxter Springs in the 20s until the final 3:15 of the game on the way to a 51-35 victory in the opening round of the Class 4A-Division II girls state tournament at White Auditorium.
“We knew coming into the game defensively we had an advantage,’’ said Hugoton coach Emmanuel Adigun, whose 16-7 Eagles advanced to a 6:30 p.m. semifinal Friday to face top seed Baldwin. “But we knew they had a very special player in No. 24 (Delaney Barnes).
“We thought if we could just contain everybody else, and make it difficult for everybody else and she has her typical average ... I thought we would be in okay shape and that’s kind of how it shook out tonight.’’
Barnes, a 6-foot sophomore, finished with a game-high 26 points on 9-of-19 shooting from the field and 8 of 15 from the free-throw line, but the rest of the Lions managed just nine points as only four players scored for Baxter Springs (13-10).
With Barnes leading the way, Baxter Springs was tied at 7 at the end of the first quarter, and the game was tied 13-all with less than three minutes left in the half, before Hugoton closed the half with an 11-4 run to take a 24-17 halftime lead.
Hugoton was still in front by seven (34-27) at the start of the fourth quarter, but the Eagles scored seven points in the first 48 seconds of the period and scored 12 straight points to open up a commanding 46-27 lead with 5:43 remaining.
“I thought the whole time that if we could just stay with it, stay with it, that eventually our pressure would wear them down,’’ Adigun said. “It took a little bit longer than what I thought, but Baxter Springs is a good basketball team.’’
Senior Brooklynn Harper led Hugoton with 18 points, including a pair of big 3-pointers, while McKenna Hamlin and JoHanna Rawlins added eight points apiece.
With the win, last year’s 3A champions advanced to a semifinal showdown with 22-1 Baldwin, which blitzed Frontenac, 86-46, setting a 4A record for points in a single game.
“It’s the state tournament and the best teams are here,’’ Adigun said. “We understand how good Baldwin is, but we didn’t come up here to be afraid either. We’re going to show up Friday ready to roll.’’.