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Taziah Hawkins' key shot powers Hanson girls to first Class A state trip

Feb. 29—MADISON, S.D. — For everybody involved on the Hanson girls basketball team, this has been a special season.

The Beavers can now add a state tournament appearance to their list of accomplishments.

Behind a clutch triple from Taziah Hawkins and key free throws from Cadence Jarding, Hanson outlasted Florence/Henry 49-45 at Madison High School Thursday night.

The victory secured the Beavers' first trip to the state tournament since 2018, and their 10th appearance all-time. It will also be Hanson's first state trip since moving up to Class A.

"The kids never cracked, they never gave up," Hanson head coach Jim Bridge said. "They stayed in the moment with what they were supposed to do, making their free throws down the stretch ... what a team effort."

It took a team effort for the Beavers to hold the Falcons in check, who previously beat Hanson 47-45 on Feb. 3 at the Corn Palace. A 13-5 first-quarter yielded to a 9-2 Florence/Henry run in the second, where Caylin Kelly picked up six quick points as part of a game-high 25 for the night.

Taking a 21-19 lead into halftime, the Beavers traded baskets with the Falcons, exchanging layups within the first two minutes in the third quarter. From the outset of the second half, Hanson relied on being able to come through in transition, using its agility to try and keep the opponents in check.

"When we're trying to get into offense, we're hustling down the court as fast as we can," senior Eliza Oltmanns said. "(We're) trying to get ahead of the defense and get something going. On defense, our goal was to try and not let them get easy layups."

The team's hustle was on display with the game on the line, as Oltmanns secured a rebound with 2:13 remaining in the game following Taylor Watson's missed layup on the fast break. Hawkins, a sophomore, swung open off a pick, draining the open triple to secure a four-point lead.

"We just knew we had to push it," Hawkins said of the sequence. "I was on, and we knew I had to get the ball. I knew (the ball) was going in as soon as I released it."

The Beavers were able to hang on over the final two minutes, surviving a trip to the line from Kelly as she missed a pair of free throws, as Florence/Henry only shot 43.8% from the foul line for the game compared to 75% for Hanson. Jarding sank both of her free throws with five seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

Hawkins led the Beavers with 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting, as the team shot 53.8% from behind the arc. Oltmanns added 11 points and four rebounds, while Kylie Haiar tallied nine points and Alyssa Moschell added four assists. As time expired, a host of emotions roared through everyone on the Hanson sideline.

"It's incredible," Moschell said of making the state tournament. "We worked all season for this and this is our reward. It's what we worked for."

"I was like, 'This is a movie! This is not happening right now!'" Oltmanns said after the buzzer sounded. "I'm just so happy. This is the biggest accomplishment in my life right now."

Florence/Henry's season ended with a record of 17-6, and had six points from Haley Hlavacek for the game. Watson finished with five points and three rebounds, and Reese Schmidt tallied four points and grabbed four boards.

Bridge,

who became the state's winningest girls basketball coach earlier in the season

, said he's proud of his kids' effort put in this year and having the chemistry on the floor to make moments like Thursday's contest possible.

"This group of kids have worked together, they've gotten along, they had no drama," Bridge said. "They've came (to practice) because they wanted to be there, they listened, and they tried all year long ... the kids are the ones who've gotten the wins. I'm thankful that I got (to coach) these kids and so thankful that they let me do it."