HHS season ends at state
Published on -3/8/2013, 10:13 AM
By KLINT SPILLER
TOPEKA -- Hays High School senior Derek Bixenman's eyes were glazed, and he used his jersey to wipe away the tears as he exited the locker room after Thursday's game.
His prep basketball career was over, and it ended like the seniors of 339 other schools in the state -- with a loss.
The Indians fell 59-42 to No. 2-ranked Lansing in the first round of the Class 5A state boys' basketball tournament at the Kansas Expocentre. Lansing improved to 21-1.
"This is exactly where we wanted to be," Bixenman said. "Obviously, we wanted to make it a little farther, but we didn't get that done today."
At the same time, Bixenman realized there were reasons to be happy.
He said Hays High (14-8) has a bright future with six of the Indians' nine top scorers either being juniors, sophomores or freshmen.
Not only that, but the Indians pulled off a monstrous turnaround.
A year ago, Hays High was 6-15. The Indians improved by eight wins, and in the process, they secured the school's first state berth in 10 years.
"This season was just great," Bixenman said. "Coming off of last year, we knew obviously we would have to pick it up a little bit, and that's exactly what we did. Look where we are at now. We are in the state tournament. We are one of the top eight teams in Kansas."
However, Hays High struggled in the limelight, especially initially. The Indians had eight turnovers in the first quarter and finished with 21, allowing Lansing to take an early lead it never relinquished.
"I think we came out a little more nervous, because of the stadium and the atmosphere," Bixenman said. "We thought about their record. They were (20-1). Me personally, I thought about that. I shouldn't let that get to me, but obviously, it did."
Senior forward Adam Deterding led Hays High with 13 points and eight rebounds -- five offensive.
"I tried my hardest, I guess," Deterding said. "It seemed like I pretty much had good position most of the night. With that, you get the boards."
It was Deterding's second straight game in double-figure scoring. He led Hays High in the sub-state championship game as well, scoring 16 -- a significant improvement for a player who averaged 5.1 points per game.
Deterding said he spent extra time this week practicing moves to drive into the lane and score from the post.
"I tried doing whatever I could to get us back in it, but it just wasn't enough," he said. "... Coach kind of told me all year my main goal was to rebound and play good defense. I knew with the tougher teams, I'd probably need to learn how to shoot a little bit and play a little offense."
Outside of Deterding's 6-of-9 shooting performance, Hays High struggled, with the rest of the team making 9-of-28.
The Indians' top player all year, sophomore center Brady Werth, finished with six rebounds and four blocks, but he only had four points on 2-of-5 shooting.
"I guarantee he'll learn from these memories," Hays High head coach Rick Keltner said.
Bixenman added six points, junior point guard Kyler Niernberger scored five, and junior guard Lane Clark finished with four points.
Lansing got strong performances from much of its lineup, but Lion senior forward Roy Clayter led the way with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting and five rebounds. Clayter dunked twice, but he also scored on multiple jumpers.
"I knew it wasn't a good sign when he started making those baseline jumpers, because I didn't know if he had that kind of range," Keltner said.
Senior forward Clayton Young and junior forward Khalil Bailey each scored 10 points for Lansing, and junior guard Joe Schneider added nine.
Lansing, as a whole, shot 24-of-49 from the field and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line.
"I feel like out of every team we've played this year, they could most likely beat any one of them," Deterding said of Lansing. "I know they are going to have a good run after this. Hopefully, I can see them go win it."
Hays High trailed 18-9 after a poor first quarter, but the Indians managed to narrow it to 27-20 at halftime.
"I just told them we've got to stay close," Keltner said. "If we can just stay close, they'll start feeling pressure. ... We were down seven at half, and I thought we were OK."
Lansing came out strong after intermission, though, and built a double-digit lead.
The Indians put together rallies, at one point trailing Lansing by seven early in the fourth quarter, but each time, the Lions responded and put more and more distance between themselves and Hays High.
In the fourth quarter, the Indians trailed by as much as 17 points.
But even with the game decided, there were some bright spots, such as freshman guard Isaiah Nunnery driving into the lane, making a contact-filled layup and converting at the foul line.
"Obviously, I wish we would have done a little better," Deterding said, "but I think we are just getting our foot back in the door for the freshmen, sophomores and juniors below us, so they get a little taste of what its like and they want to come back every year and do a little better each year. Hopefully, they end up winning soon."