3 takeaways from Hayden girls basketball tournament win: 'Being young, we kind of lack consistency'

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The Hayden girls basketball team improved to 7-3 with a semifinal win at the Top Gun Tournament in Wellsville on Thursday night with a win over Nemaha Central (8-4).

It was a low-scoring defensive affair with both teams battling turnovers, forced and unforced.

Heading into the second quarter, the score was tied 8-8 but Hayden took control with a 12-4 second quarter to take a 20-12 halftime lead.

"(Senior forward) Sandy Anguiano came on and defensively gave us a spark," said coach Carvel Reynoldson on the senior's second quarter that saw Nemaha Central's leading scorer held to two after scoring eight in the first quarter. "She was in the right place over and over. Changed the game in that quarter for us."

Nemaha Central would clip Hayden's lead down to four, 25-21, after the third quarter and it came down to the wire with Hayden holding on for the 32-30 lead when Nemaha Central junior Ella Larkin's shot fell off the rim at the buzzer.

Hayden had eight different players scored led by senior Carly Stuke (8) and sophomore Lauren Sandstrom (5) while senior Macy Smith, freshman Brylee Meier and freshman Norma Greco scored four each.

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Hayden, ranked No. 10 in 4A, advanced to play 5A No. 8 Spring Hill on Saturday who upset 5A No. 3 Lansing in the other semifinal game.

Here are three takeaways from Hayden's win over Nemaha Central.

Senior leaders step up

Hayden Carly Stuke (14) shoots the ball Thursday. Stuke is averaging 11.8 points on the season.
Hayden Carly Stuke (14) shoots the ball Thursday. Stuke is averaging 11.8 points on the season.

It was the senior leaders stepping up at key points to help lead Hayden to the win.

In the first half, it was Stuke, the senior guard and one of the top two returnees for the team this year. She leads the team with 11.8 points per game and had six of her eight in the second-quarter run for Hayden to put them up heading into halftime.

First, she finished a steal and by Smith with a left handed layup to tie the game at 10, then a backdoor cut with the pass from Smith to make it 12-10 and late in the quarter it was a baseline out of bounds cut right down the middle to make it 17-10.

"We need those seniors for sure," said Reynoldson. "We’d be lost without them."

In the second half, it was Smith, the senior guard who's coming off of a torn ACL last season and is second on the team averaging 11.2 points per game.

In the middle of the fourth quarter, Smith's lone field goal of the game capped off a 7-2 run that made it 32-23.

Later, after Nemaha Central cut the lead to 32-27 with two minutes to go, Smith grabbed two big defensive rebounds to keep possession leading to Nemaha Central fouls.

Looking for consistency

Hayden has shown flashes of what they can be in their losses.

Washburn Rural got hot at the right time, but they played Seaman close until the end and led Topeka High at halftime.

And they've shown flashes of what they can be in their wins, like putting up 40 points in the first half of game one of the tournament against Baldwin.

Lauren Sandstrom (5) celebrates Thursday after Hayden beat Nemaha Central.
Lauren Sandstrom (5) celebrates Thursday after Hayden beat Nemaha Central.

Against Nemaha Central, the ball movement was there but converting shots and turnovers led to a night where they struggled to put points on the board, scoring 16 points less than their season average.

"Earlier in the year, more than it has been lately," said Reynoldson on turnovers being an issue. "I think we only turned it over maybe 11 times in the first game this tournament. It definitely was an issue tonight."

Defensively, they knew Nemaha Central junior Addy Holthaus would be a focal point after seeing her score 19 in their first game tournament win over Louisburg.

Holthaus had 17 against Hayden but was held to seven in the second half while the rest of the team combined for just 13 points as Hayden held their opponent to nine points less than their season average.

More: Topeka-area basketball make their marks at mid-season tournaments. Here are the results.

Future is bright

Despite nights like Thursday, where they struggled with turnovers and offensive consistency, they still got the win.

The numbers aren't stellar this season so far, shooting 61% from the free-throw line, 42% on two-point field goals and 24% on three-point field goals.

And they're still already within two games of their win total from all of last season.

"If we can play defense with pressure and discipline, it gives us a chance to go through our struggles," said Reynoldson. "Against Baldwin, we had 40 points in the first half, we have flashes of explosiveness. Being young, we kind of lack consistency."

Out of the 12 players on their roster, four are seniors, one is a junior, four are sophomores and three are freshman.

Hayden's Reagan Huscher (15) defends against Nemaha Central's Addy Holthaus (15) Thursday.
Hayden's Reagan Huscher (15) defends against Nemaha Central's Addy Holthaus (15) Thursday.

Two sophomores and a freshman started on Thursday while sophomores Avery Grunert, Reagan Huscher and Greco saw time. The younger players on the roster are getting quality playing time this season that will pay dividends in the next couple of years.

Sandstrom, a sophomore forward, is the team's fourth-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, and Meier is the leading rebounder and third-leading scorer.

Contact Seth Kinker at skinker@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @SethKinker.

This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Hayden girls basketball advances to Top Gun Tournament championship

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