HESSTON — The Hesston High School girls’ basketball team was constantly threatening fifth-ranked (KBCA, Class 4A) Nickerson with an upset, but could never close out the game, falling to the Panthers 57-49 Friday night in Hesston.


Nickerson was led by 6-foot-2 freshman Ava Jones with 18 points. Morgan Stout, a 6-3 senior, added 15 points.


Nickerson improves to 17-2 and clinches a share of the Central Kansas League title at 8-0.


Elyse Kaiser led Hesston with 18 points. Caryn Yoder added 12.


“We needed to play to the best of our potential tonight,” Kaiser said. “We didn’t do that, but we took a step forward to reach our potential. My teammates hit some big shots tonight. That’s what it’s going to take. Our defense is what we’re known for. We can’t take a possession off on defense. If we play consistent defense for 32 minutes, then we can play with these top teams.”


Nickerson jumped out to an 8-3 lead with seven points from Stout. Yoder hit a three-point play with .3 seconds left in the quarter to cut the Swather deficit to one, 15-14. The Panthers were called for a foul off the ball on the play.


Nickerson opened the second quarter with the first five points and increased its lead to nine. The Swathers got back within four, with chances to get closer, but the Panthers replied with a run lead by 12. A Yoder trey just before the buzzer to get the Swathers back within nine, 33-24. Again, Nickerson was called for a foul away from the ball on the play.


“I’ve never done that,” Yoder said of her back-to-back buzzer beaters. “It was a tough loss, but it was a lot of fun to play. We want to get one more win before sub-state.”


Down by 12 early in the third quarter, Hesston got to within three. Nickerson got back out by six at the end of the period, 46-40.


Yoder opened the fourth quarter with a three-point play. Marisa Vogt followed with a 3-pointer to tie.


Nickerson came back with layups by Stout and Jones. Josie McLean hit a 3-pointer with 1:31 remaining to put Nickerson back out by six. McLean followed with a pair of free throws.


Hesston is 13-6, 5-3 in CKL play, and plays Tuesday at Pratt to end the regular season.


“We need to come back stronger and achieve what we want to achieve,” Kaiser said.


NICKERSON (17-2, 8-0 CKL) — J.McLean 0 (2) 2-2 1, 8; M.Ontjes 1 (1) 2-3 2, 7; K.Ontjes 1 (2) 1-2 0, 9; Apfel 0 0-0 2, 0; Stout 7 1-3 3, 15; Jones 7 4-4 2, 18; TOTALS 16 (5) 10-14 10, 57.


HESSTON (13-6, 5-3 CKL) — Yoder 1 (3) 1-1 4, 12; E.Kaiser 4 (1) 7-9 1, 18; Vogt 0 (3) 0-0 3, 9; Martin 1 0-0 0, 2; Humphries 0 (2) 0-0 1, 6; Keuker 1 0-0 2, 2; Deegan 0 0-0 4, 0; TOTALS 7 (7) 8-12 15, 49.


Nickerson;15;18;13;11;—57


Hesston;14;14;16;9;—49