EMPORIA — If the Hugoton Eagles were to knock off top-seeded Baldwin in Friday’s Class 4A-II semifinal game, they were going to need a few key items to go their direction.
Find a way to stop the Bulldogs’ high-scoring guard, Abby Ogle; figure out a way to handle the defensive pressure; and not let other players play prominent roles.
But in the 60-47 Baldwin victory, those were exactly the things that contributed to Hugoton’s loss at White Auditorium.
Abby Ogle got her points — 28 of them, off 10-of-19 field goals and 8-of-11 free throws. Baldwin’s high-pressure defense forced the Eagles into 20 turnovers, 13 of them in the critical first half.
And, yes, the cast of supporting players did their damage, too.
Reilly Stewart hit 3 treys en route to 11 points, Carly Lindenberger made two long distance buckets for a 10-point outing, while Kayla Kurtz and McKinley each nailed a deep trey.
But there was one other item that Hugoton’s first-year coach Emmanuel Adigun hadn’t figured on, and that was the free-throw line.
A solid team at the charity stripe, the Eagles suffered through a free-throw performance that resembled something like Nightmare on Elm Street — a 13-of-32 struggle at the line.
Yep, the numbers speak volumes. That’s 40.6 percent, and considering they were 15 of 37 from the field (40.5 percent), there wasn’t much benefit of going to the line.
“That’s just something too difficult to overcome,” Adigun said afterward. “The game could have gone south, but the girls battled hard and played it all the way to the end. And that shows the heart of this group.”
The setback puts the Eagles (16-8) into Saturday’s noon consolation game against Marysville (18-5), a 48-38 loser to Andale in the other semifinal. Baldwin faces Andale for the title at 4 p.m.
Indeed, after falling behind early in a game they never led, the Eagles found themselves on the verge of a monumental blowout from the middle of the third quarter (down 37-20) to the end of the period (45-24 deficit) to the 6:35 mark of the fourth (51-26).
That’s when the Eagles seemingly caught a second wind and made a determined effort to make the game respectable.
From that point to the final buzzer, the Eagles kept pushing and pushing, outscoring the Bulldogs 21-9 the rest of the way.
“We knew if we could take care of the ball, get to the free-throw line, we’d give ourselves a chance,” Adigun said. “But give Baldwin credit — No. 4 (Ogle) made more mid-range jumpers than we’d seen on film, and that was a big difference. Then, she dished off and they knocked down some big 3-pointers. They come at you with a lot of different weapons.”
Baldwin didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, hitting 19-of-56 field goals (33.9 percent), but they were an efficient 15 of 21 at the free-throw line and committed just 11 turnovers. There were no lead changes and no ties.
“All I can say about the girls is they played with a lot of heart and never gave up,” Adigun said. “They’ve had to handle a lot of things this season, and we fought all year and that’s a testament to what these girls have inside.”
Brooklynn Harper led the Eagles in scoring with 15 points, while JoHanna Rawlins chipped in with 13. They did have a 37-31 rebounding advantage with freshman Jordyn Beard grabbing nine. Lindenmeyer was high for Baldwin with eight.
The opening minutes could not have gone much worse for the Eagles than it did, with Baldwin scoring the first five points en route to a 13-5 first-quarter advantage.
In that stretch, the Eagles didn’t get their first field goal until 4:32, when Rawlins hit a follow shot. McKenna Hamlin’s 3-pointer at 1:55 was the only other points on the board in that stretch.
The downfall began at the free-throw line, as the Eagles could not make any of their four free throws in the opening period.
And things cascaded even more in the second quarter, when Hugoton made just 2 of 8, finishing 2 of 12 by halftime.
The Eagles had no answer for the driving layups and floaters by the elder Ogle, who made six of them en route to a 13-point first-half performance.
Baldwin’s pesky defense, which bothered the Eagles in the half court, forced 13 miscues in the opening half, and that helped pave the way for the 14-point halftime deficit at 26-12.
The Bulldogs got critical 3-pointers from its supporting cast as Stewart, Lindenmeyer and Markley accounted for four long-range baskets, two of those from Lindenmeyer.