HUTCHINSON — Hesston is the official title town of the 2013-14 basketball season.
Both Swather teams won Class 3A state championships Saturday at the Sports Arena to become the first school in Kansas since South Gray in 2008 to sweep both the boys’ and girls’ titles.
The Swather girls started off the evening with a 46-36 victory over stubborn Lyons in what was a matchup of Central Kansas League teams. The Lions were the Cinderella story of the tourney, having entered as the No. 8 and last seed with a 15-8 record.
But after back-to-back upsets, completing the trifecta was a little too much to ask as the Swathers won their first-ever state title.
However, the Lions were right there for a half. They were down only 22-21, but Hesston buckled down with some airtight defense in the third quarter, permitting just three points and then was able to close it out.
The Richardson sisters, Cami and Caylee, scored 16 and 11 points, respectively, to make their father, Matt, a state championship coach, but it was 10 points from unsung Megan Voth that provided the impetus. Normally not a big scorer, she knocked down three clutch 3-pointers and finished with 10 points.
Hesston did a marvelous job on Lyons star Brenna McClure, holding her to eight points. Aubrey Hollinger lit it up with five 3-pointers and scored 15 points to lead the Lions.
Hesston completed the year 25-1, the only loss a two-pointer in the semifinals of the Hillsboro Classic to Class 4A state runner-up Wamego, which had its 39-game winning streak snapped Saturday night by Bishop Miege.
The Hesston boys then completed their thrill-a-minute run in this tourney, as Grant Raleigh’s 3-pointer with 17 seconds left put the wrap on a 59-54 victory over Beloit, capping the magical 26-0 season. It was the third title in HHS history, the others coming in 1983 and 1985.
Raleigh’s 3-pointer pushed Hesston’s lead out to 56-52 and he finished with 22 points to help his father, Greg, win his first championship as a coach.
Hesston had relied so heavily this year on the “Big Four” of Raleigh, Ryan Schadler, Wyatt McKinney and Tyler McCartney. But sometimes new heroes step to the front and on this night it was Justin Smith, who doubled his regular-season averages by scoring nine points and snapping up 11 rebounds.
Schadler added 14 points.
The game was tied at 25 at the half and Hesston inched ahead 38-37 after three quarters though it had to overcome a 35-30 deficit. Greg Raleigh has had great faith in his team this year, as when it has struggled he has told his team to “play through it,” which it did.
As for next year, the Hesston girls must replace four seniors, but the Richardsons return along with Kelsey Unruh, who averaged 11 points a game. The Hesston boys had only two seniors, but they’re McKinney and Schadler, yet they could very well be the team to beat with Raleigh, McCartney and Smith all back, along with top two subs Brad Simpson and Scott Duerksen.