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Nicholson sparks Cardinals past Oilers
Hoisington's Drew Nicholson
Hoisington's Drew Nicholson soars up and dunks the basketball against Central Plains on Friday night. Nicholson scored a 25-point opener against Central Plains. - photo by Hugo Gonzalez

CLAFLIN – Talk about a transformation.

Hoisington's Drew Nicholson shifted his style from a spot-up 3-pointer shooter into a dominating inside force with two slam dunks and inside scoring to compliment his perimeter game in a dazzling 25-point opener.

Nicholson scored 13 first-half points in the paint to spark the Cardinals to Friday's spectacular 83-33 opening basketball victory over Barton County rival Central Plains. Nicholson knocked down a pair of second-half 3-pointers as the Cardinals converted 9 of 16 from long range.

No. 10 state-ranked 3A Hoisington (1-0) shocked the Oilers from the outset with half-court and full-court defensive schemes that dictated the tempo. 

Hoisington's Holt Hanzlick, flashing his familiar golden locks, executed a little bit of everything with a career high 11 points, several steals and a perfect assist to Nicholson for first slam dunk for a 29-7 lead. Nicholson's second slam dunk created a 65-15 second-half lead. 

Hanzlick sank a pair of 3-pointers for eight points and Nicholson seven for a 27-7 first-quarter lead. Dylan Richards and Braden Mooney converted 3-pointers. The Cardinals converted 12 first-half turnovers into a layup drill for a 48-13 halftime lead.

Lefthander Richards was solid with a 13-point night and several assists. The Cardinals converted 32 of 51 field goals for 63 percent.

The Cardinals had four days of basketball practice after the football team reached the 2A state championship game. The Cardinals let their aggressive defensive plan take control with superior speed, length and depth. The Cardinals trapped and double teamed Oiler ballhandlers and ran the court flawlessly. They executed half-court, full-court, 1-3-1 and man-to-man schemes.

"We wanted to pin-point our defense, and we were really pleased with our defensive effort," said Hoisington coach Kyle Haxton. "They've worked for this senior season for four years. They are taking nothing for granted, one game at a time."  

Hoisington (1-0) plays Macksville  (0-1) in Tuesday's Gene Keady Classic at Larned. Hoisington ended last year's 17-5 season with a last-second semifinal substate setback to Hays-Thomas More Prep.

Tough-minded power forward Tyler Holmes, a Rock-'Em, Sock 'Em warrior, led the Oilers with nine points, several rebounds and the inevitable collisions. Holmes will improve after converting one of nine free throws. Jacob Oberle converted a pair of 3-pointers for eight points. Freshman Peyto Ryan scored eight points with a solid floor game in his varsity debut.

The Oilers struggled from the perimeter with 2 of 16 shooting in the coaching debut for Oiler coach Bryce Steiner at his former high school. The Oilers (0-1) play Smith Center at Tuesday's Russell Tournament.

Hoisington 27 21 28 7 – 83

Central Plains 7 6 14 6 – 33

HOISINGTON (1-0)–Drew Nicholson 11-14 1-2 25, Dylan Richards 4-6 3-4 13, Holt Hanzlick 4-7 1-2 11, Mooney 3-5 0-0 8, Woydziak 3-3 0-2 7, Mason Haxton 3-3 0-2 6, Thompson 0-3 4-4 4, Leyton Haxton 2-5 0-0 4,  Dolezal 1-1 1-3 3, Chase Robinson 1-2 0-0 2, Totals 32-51 10-17 83 

CENTRAL PLAINS (0-1)–Jacob Oberle 3-4 1-2 9, Tyler Holmes 4-12 1-9 9, Peyton Ryan 3-13 2-2 8, Laymon 2-4 1-3 5, Lamatsch 1-3 0-0 2, Beck 0-2 0-0 0, Kitchen 0-3 0-0 0, Klima 0-2 0-0 0, Totals 13-43 5-16 33

3-pointers–H 9-16 (Nicholson 2-2, Richards 2-2, Hanzlick 2-3, Mooney 2-4, Woydziak 1-1, Leyton Haxton 0-1, Mason Haxton 0-1, Thompson 0-2), CP 2-16 (Oberle 2-3, Holmes 0-1, Beck 0-2, Kitchen 0-3, Ryan 0-7)