HHS rolls, will play for sub-state title
Published on -3/1/2013, 10:22 AM
By KLINT SPILLER
Senior night. Rivalry game. First round of its Class 5A sub-state tournament.
The Hays High School boys' basketball team (13-7) had reasons to play Thursday, and it showed on the scoreboard. The Indians demolished Great Bend 49-20 in the HHS gym.
Hays High earned the right to face Liberal (7-13) in the sub-state championship game at 6 p.m. Saturday at the HHS gym.
If a person hadn't known prior to the game, it would have been difficult to guess Great Bend (5-15) won the previous meeting between the two rivals.
"Last game, we obviously didn't play very well," said Hays High senior small forward Derek Bixenman. "We knew we had to come out with the momentum we did. Obviously, we did that tonight. We came out and knew we weren't going to lose to them again."
Great Bend never led, and frankly, it wasn't even a ball game midway through the second quarter as the Indians blew past the Panthers.
The Indians dominated in nearly every category.
Hays High shot 18 of 35 from the field compared to Great Bend's 6 of 38, out rebounded Great Bend 31 to 25, and forced 16 Great Bend turnovers to Hays High's 11.
"It feels really, really good, especially at the end of the season," Bixenman said. "You don't want to end on a rivalry loss. It was an exciting win."
Sophomore center Brady Werth led Hays High with 19 points, six rebounds and two blocks.
"I think he would give credit to his teammates," said Hays High head coach Rick Keltner. "Any game where he hasn't scored more points is because he's got two or three guys around him all the time. Sometimes, we would turn it over or be too impatient trying to get it to him. I thought tonight his teammates did a good job of hitting him when he could do something with it."
Bixenman helped Hays High take off, scoring nine points in the first half. He finished with 12 points -- second best in the game -- and five rebounds.
It was one of Bixenman's better games this season. He had struggled this year, scoring 5.3 points per game and shooting 32.1 percent, a year after earning all-league honors and leading the team in scoring with 10.6 points per game.
"I haven't been where I was last year," he said. "I don't know if the pressure was on this year, because I had such a great season last year. But I have so much faith in my team that I don't really think about the struggle anymore."
Bixenman said he felt more confident Thursday.
"All day, I was just focused and getting ready to go," he said.
Meanwhile, Great Bend struggled against Hays High's energetic defense. The Panthers scored three field goals combined in the final three quarters, shooting 3 of 32.
Great Bend freshman guard Trey Ibarra led his squad in scoring with five points, and senior forward Ethan Henderson, who broke Great Bend's rebounding record for a game in the two squad's previous meeting, posted four points and a game-high eight rebounds.
Hays High improved to 8-2 at home versus 5-5 on the road.
Bixenman said there's something special about playing in the Indians' gym.
"It's ridiculous," Bixenman said. "You saw the student section. All of our peers, like I said the other day, are more pumped than we are. All my friends were talking about it today. They are so pumped to watch the team play."
That home-court advantage could bode well for the Indians in the sub-state championship game Saturday when they play Liberal. The Indians twice defeated Liberal in the regular season, 60-46 Feb. 8 at HHS and 68-50 Jan. 4 at Liberal.
The Redskins have struggled this season, but they have played well down the stretch, winning two of their last four. Liberal won 68-49 Thursday in the first round of sub-state at No. 3 seed Maize South (8-13).
"It's kind of a deal where records don't mean anything right now," Keltner said. "It's in the past. We've got a chance to play Liberal. We've got to prepare for them. I'm sure they'll play hard, and I know we'll play hard."