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SPOTLIGHT
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Hays High caps perfect regular season

Published on -3/2/2014, 10:20 AM

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By NICK McQUEEN

nmcqueen@dailynews.net

GREAT BEND --  At the start of the 2013-14 season, a deep, talented Hays High School boys' basketball team knew it had a decent shot at running the table, but didn't necessarily set it as a goal.

Once the Indians claimed the championship in January at the annual Dodge City Tournament of Champions, though, the unbeaten regular season became more likely.

Whether it was an actual goal or not, on Friday against Western Athletic Conference foe Great Bend, the Indians' dream of a perfect regular season came true.

The Indians won 63-35 to move to 20-0, and complete an 8-0 sweep through the Western Athletic Conference.

"This feels great," Indian senior point guard Kyler Niernberger said. "We knew we had a pretty good chance of running the table, and we knew if we could stay dedicated and stay focused, we could obtain it."

After Great Bend took a 3-0 lead early Friday in front of a packed house, it was all Indians. Sparked by a hot first quarter for senior Jordan Windholz, Hays High went on an 11-0 run, and eventually lead 23-10 after one quarter. Windholz had 13 of his game-high 20 points in the first quarter. He had a pair of 3-pointers, and a conventional 3-point play.

Windholz's first points in the run came on an alley-oop from Niernberger, his team-leading 138th assist of the season. He found Windholz several more times in the first quarter. He ended the game with 12 assists, and has 149 for the season.

"I'll get the ball to whoever's hot, or whoever the open guy is," Niernberger said. "Always have to take into account the way he was hitting shots there early."

Then HHS allowed only one Great Bend point in the second quarter and led 35-11 at halftime. Junior center Brady Werth got in on the action with four of his 14 points in the second quarter.

"This happens when you have good kids who work hard and listen, and have talent," Hays High coach Rick Keltner said. "This is a good group of kids. They like each other and are good to coach."

The 20-win season is the third team since the 1930s to do so. The state title team from 1943-44 finished 22-1, and Hays High had a team in 1995-96 that finished 21-4.

"Thankful for the kids," Keltner said. "They've shown some resilience."

Great Bend (7-13 overall, 2-6 WAC) made a small run in the third quarter and scored 17 points, but five points by senior Kade Parker, and four by senior Clayton Riedel helped stave off any comeback attempt. HHS pushed the lead to 30 by the midway point of the fourth.

"After beating Wichita East and all the great opponents (at the TOC), we knew we had a pretty good shot," Niernberger said. "We knew we had something special going if we just stayed together."

Windholz finished with 20 points on 8 of 15 shooting, while Werth finished 7 of 10 for 14 points. Riedel scored eight points, all in the second half.

Now, unbeaten is the only option if Hays High hopes to reach its ultimate goal. From here on out, it's win or go home. What the Indians hope will end as a 25-0 season begins Wednesday with a 6 p.m. Class 5A sub-state game against Wichita West (3-17) at the HHS gym. A win Wednesday, and the Indians get either Wichita-Bishop Carroll (7-13) or Great Bend (7-13) for a chance to play in Topeka at the 5A state championship tournament.

"We're just thankful and excited about the chance to play again," Keltner said.

Great Bend girls coast past HHS

At the 4:35 point of the first quarter Friday, the Hays High School girls' basketball team took a 6-4 lead on Great Bend, the top seed for this week's sub-state and ranked No. 5 in Class 5A.

Then Great Bend showed its dominance. A 33-0 run by Great Bend put things way out of reach for the Indians, who finished the regular season 0-20 and 0-8 in WAC play.

By halftime Great Bend senior Morgan Harwood had 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Great Bend built up a 44-10 lead. Great Bend had already wrapped up the top seed in this week's 5A sub-state, but put the finishing touches on an unbeaten run through the WAC. The Panthers' two losses have come at the hands of Riley County, ranked No. 2 in Class 3A, and Wichita South, No. 1 ranked and defending Class 6A state champion.

Harwood finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while reserve senior Hannah Hildebrand put up 10 points. Hays High hit 11 of 34 shots and was 3 of 16 from the free throw line. Schmeidler led the Indians with eight points and nine rebounds.

Hays High is right back at Great Bend on Thursday for the first round of the 5A sub-state, a 7 p.m. start. The winner of that game gets the winner between Liberal (7-13) and Maize South (6-14).

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