Back in 1985, the Swathers sent both the boys and girls basketball teams to state championship games. The boys earned a state title, while the girls finished second. Now, 29 years later, Hesston has claimed the right to go from H-Town to Title Town with both the boys and girls bringing home 3A state championships.
“Title Town USA baby,” said Hesston senior Ryan Schadler. “Title Town USA. It’s a blessing. It’s a lot of fun. We have the whole community here. I don’t know if there is anybody in Hesston right now. This will be something that you remember for the rest of your life and that brotherhood is going to be there forever.
The Hesston girls lit the candles to get the party started, opening up the championship round with a 46-36 win over Central Kansas League rival Lyons.
“It’s awesome,” said Hesston head coach Matt Richardson. “These kids, I’ve been coaching some of these kids since they were first and second graders. And so they work hard, they are great kids, they have put in a lot of time, energy and effort.”
The Swathers got behind a 16-point game from Cami Richardson to hold off the Lions who had a stellar run through the postseason, making the championship game as a No. 8 seed. Caylee Richardson had an 11-point, 10-rebound double-double for the Swathers and Megan Voth tossed in 10.
In the first quarter, Lyons took it to Hesston and took an 11-7 lead into the second quarter. The Swathers found their rhythm in the second quarter and threatened to break the game wide open when Megan Voth started knocking down 3s.
But desperately needing to get the momentum back, Aubrey Hollinger put the Lions on her back and started matching Voth 3-for-3 to keep Lyons in the game. The Swathers took a 22-21 lead into the locker room at the half.
In the third, the Hesston defense which has been suffocating all year put the clamps on the Lyons offense. With a state championship on the line, the Swathers held the Lions to 3 points in the quarter, an Alexis Lasater 3 at the buzzer. Meanwhile the Hesston offense kept grinding, helping the Swathers build a 33-21 lead in the quarter.
“We weren’t taking it to them,” said Cami Richardson. “We needed to make sure that we came out of the locker room very strong. We needed to start being aggressive.
Lyons rallied in the fourth, but the Swathers held on to finish the season with a state title.
“It’s insane,” said Hesston’s Kelsey Unruh. “I can’t stop shaking. But it’s just a dream come true. We have been dreaming of this moment from the first day of practice.”
With the town of Hesston lathered up and in full throat from the girls championship in the bag, the boys took the court to take a barnburner from Beloit 59-54 to complete the sweep.
“That was ridiculous,” said Hesston’s Grant Raleigh. “I loved every second of it. I have dreamed of this since I was literally two-years-old. To have it come out like that, that is completely a dream come true. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.”
In the second quarter, Beloit’s defense started racking up the steals and turnovers to take a lead against the Swathers. But Raleigh buried a 3 with about 30 seconds left in the half to tie the game at 25-25.
Raleigh finished with 22 points, a team high, and foreshadowed the second half to come with his 3 to tie it at the half.
The Trojans jumped on the back of Payton Vetter and made a run in the third quarter. But Hesston came back and a Ryan Schadler 3 at the buzzer gave the Swathers a 39-38 lead after three and all the momentum going into the fourth.
“I don’t know if that pass was for me,” said Schadler. “But I went ahead and put it up there, and it went in. I got pretty jacked. I live for those moments.”
In the fourth quarter, Hesston built on the Schadler 3 and built a 48-40 lead with three and a half minutes left. But the Trojans were given life when Schadler had to go to the bench with his fourth foul.
Beloit took full advantage. And a 3, followed by a Vetter steal and quick 3 helped the Trojans to erase the deficit and take a 1-point lead.
But Raleigh took the air out of the Beloit side of the gym with a 3 to give Hesston a 55-53 lead with 40 seconds left.
“That was big,” said Raleigh. “I had confidence that it was going in. I knew I was going to be taking those shots someday, and it was big. It was fun.”
Hesston free throws in the final seconds iced the game, and sealed the teams spot in school and town lore.
“It’s a great night,” said Matt Richardson. “I love the kids, and I love the community. I’ve been in Hesston for a long time and it’s been a lot of fun.”
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