Sophomore point guard Jaden Hobbs poured in 30 points, 17 in the final quarter, as Alva defeated Verdigris, 68-56, in the first round of the Class 3A girls state tournament at Southern Nazarene University.
Hobbs scored the last 11 points of the game, including the final seven from the free throw line, as second-ranked Alva advanced to meet third-ranked Washington at 8 p.m. Friday in a battle of two very young teams.
Neither squad has a senior starter. Alva doesn’t even have a senior on the roster. The best player for both teams is a sophomore, Washington’s 6-3 post Kelsey Johnson and Hobbs, who was Alva’s leading scorer as a freshman on last year’s Class 2A state championship runner-up team.
“She does a lot for us, there is no doubt” said Alva coach Eric Smith.
Whenever Verdigris would make a run Thursday, it seemed Hobbs had an answer.
She hit four-three pointers in the game, including two critical baskets from behind the arc early in the fourth quarter when Verdigris had cut the Alva deficit to 46-43.
Alva went on an 8-1 run over the next 1:30 to expand the lead to 54-44 and the Cardinals never got closer than eight points after that.
“She stepped up and hit big shots, but that is what she does,” Smith said of Hobbs. “She is a big-time player. She prepares for those moments.”
Hobbs, who averages 20 points per game, said her teammates expect her to take those crucial shots.
“They believe in me that I will knock it down and that gives me the courage to do it,” she said.
Freshman Whitney Randall came off the bench for Alva to score 17 points, 15 in the first half.
“That is huge,” Smith said.
Hobbs said making a run to the 2A title game last year has made Alva an experienced squad even though the Goldbugs are young.
Alva only lost one starter off last year’s team and is confident it can win the gold ball this year, she said.
“We were very close (last year),” Hobbs said. “It kind of lit a fire in us. We don’t want that same taste again as last year.”
Alva improved to 26-2 on the season. Fourth-ranked Verdigris finished at 25-3.