South Gray can't dig out of early hole in loss to Hoxie at 1A state.


Special to The Telegram

EMPORIA South Gray Coach Mark Applegate jokingly told the official scorer that he'd start the first five players who made a layup during the Rebels' halftime drills. It was that kind of night for the tradition-rich Rebels, who stumbled 68-59 on Wednesday night in the opening round of the Class 1A-Division I boys state basketball tournament.

South Gray (19-5) struggled against the lightning-fast Hoxie full-court pressure defense in the first quarter, falling behind 11-0 two minutes into the game.

"It's always tough when you end your season playing like we did in the first half," said Applegate, who has won three state titles at South Gray. "We didn't have our best tonight, but you have to tip your hat to Hoxie. They played very well tonight."

Nine of the 12 players on Hoxie's roster are freshmen or sophomores, but the Indians looked like a seasoned team, making big play after big play when the Rebels went on a run.

"We knew about South Gray's tradition, but our guys went into this game with a mindset to be aggressive and go after them," said Hoxie coach Aaron Dardis. "We got off to the fast start, and obviously that was big for us."

Despite the sluggish start and a 14-point deficit late in the first half, the Rebels rallied in the second half behind senior Ronald Martens. A 12-2 spurt in the third quarter, including back-to-back buckets from Martens, pulled South Gray within 39-36 with 1:40 left in the period.

"We were much better in the second half. I thought we played pretty well after halftime," Applegate said. "Ronald gave us a big lift. We just got too far behind early and couldn't make it all the way back."

Every time South Gray rallied, Hoxie had an answer, especially senior Jaxsen Moss. When the Rebels pulled within 39-36, Moss drilled a 3-pointer from the corner. When South Gray cut the lead to 44-38 early in the fourth quarter, Moss swished another trey.

"We don't have many seniors, but we depend on Jaxsen for that leadership," Dardis said. "He made several big plays tonight when we needed it."

After trailing by as much as 12 in the final frame, South Gray cut the deficit to seven several times. But Hoxie put the game away at the foul line, converting 22 of 28 free throws, including 17 of 21 in the second half.

"We had a pretty young team this year, so getting here was great for this bunch," said Applegate, who has led the Rebels to seven straight state tournaments. "This was a good experience for the kids we have coming back."

Hoxie had 11-0, 8-0 and 6-0 spurts in the first half while building a 34-22 lead.

Martens had 16 points to lead the Rebels, while Carson Skidmore scored 11 and Garret Watkins 10.

Moss led Hoxie with 21 points and seven rebounds. Kade Spresser added 18 points, Chase Kennedy 11 and Colton Spresser 10.


Hoxie 21 13 10 24 68

South Gray 11 11 14 23 59

Hoxie (19-4) Moss 7 4-6 21, K. Spresser 4 10-11 18, Kennedy 4 2-2 11, Friess 3 0-0 6, Katt 1 0-0 2, Smith 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 22-28 68.

South Gray (19-5) Martens 6 4-4 16, Skidmore 4 3-4 11, Watkins 4 2-3 10, Slaven 3 1-3 7, Mosher 2 1-1 6, Clancy 2 0-0 5, Skinner 1 0-0 2, Holloway 0 2-2 2, Dahlke 0 0-0 0, Foskuhl 0 0-0 0, Tyler 0 0-0 0, Wright 0 0-0 0.

3-point goals Hoxie 4 (Moss 3, Kennedy 1); South Gray 2 (Clancy, Mosher). Total fouls Hoxie 17, South Gray 26. Fouled out Hoxie (Moss), South Gray (Slaven, Skinner).