Hays High girls' season ends at Salina
Published on -2/28/2013, 10:26 AM
By TYLER PARKS
SALINA -- As Hays High School senior Janae Gagnon watched her high school basketball career dwindle to its final quarter, she seemed to seize every last moment.
Gagnon spent the fourth quarter relentlessly attacking Salina South's defense.
She drove into the lane on nearly every possession during the final quarter in the Indian's 42-31 season-ending loss in the opening round of their Class 5A sub-state.
Gagnon finished with six of her eight points (tied for the team-high) in the fourth quarter. She also led the Indians (9-11) with five rebounds.
The Cougars (15-5), the No. 2 seed in the bracket, is ranked No. 8 in the most recent class 5A coaches poll.
The two teams played each other less than a month ago in a shootout that ended with a 40-38 Cougar victory in overtime.
Both were slow to start the game Wednesday, scoring a combined 11 points in the first quarter.
"All of our kids were nervous early, we were winded right off the bat and when you see that out of your kids, when they are huffing and puffing at this time of the year, it is nerves," Cougar head coach Jason Hooper said. "They just work themselves up a little bit too high."
In the last meeting, it took Salina South senior Megan Holloway four quarters to come alive. She didn't wait near as long this time around.
"Once she settled in and got a basket to go we kind of went to a baseline set and isolated for her to get a bucket, once she gets that first one she always settles in," Hooper said.
Holloway scored seven of her team-high 16 points during an 11-0 Cougar run to end the first half, giving her team a 20-9 advantage at intermission.
The run came after Hays High senior April Johnson tied the game at nine with a 3-point shot early in the second, but they were three of Hays High's mere five points in the quarter.
The Indians cut the lead to eight multiple times in the second half, but were unable to mount a comeback as the Cougars' potent offense extended the lead after every Indian run.
Cougar senior Janai Mitchell had been sidelined for much of the last month after sustaining an injury 30 seconds into the last matchup between the two teams.
"She has been slowly getting back, she hasn't been 100 percent since the last Hays game. I felt like tonight she was as close to that as she has been," Hooper said. "We got the ball to her a lot of good times down on the block and she finished."
"They are well coach and when we got a little outsized they posted up, and it is hard to help on a team that shoots this well," Hays High coach Kirk Maska said.
Mitchell's play inside was the counterpart to Holloway's perimeter play the Cougars were missing during the last meeting. Mitchell scored 15 points and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
"Janai was on the floor and that made a huge difference for us tonight," Hooper said. "We build a lot of our offensive game plan around her and when she went down in the first meeting we had to scramble."
The Indians ran their offense seamlessly throughout the game, but were unable to capitalize on the open looks, finishing 30 percent from the field as a team.
"I don't know if it was nerves or the fact that we haven't practiced much in the this week and our legs went a little early," Maska said. "I thought we had the open shots and we worked hard."
Indian senior Katelyn Schumacher also finished with eight points, but struggled early. She missed her first five shots of the game, a problem that plagued the Indians all night.
"I think on the defensive end we played great," Maska said. "On the offensive end, we were getting open looks. Our shots just weren't falling."
Maska, in his fourth year, has a special connection to this group of seniors. They were his first class he coached for their entire high school career.
"They were a big, big part of getting Hays High basketball back to respectability," Maska said. "They were big in our 17-win season last year. It is a really special group, the fact that seven girls lasted for four years is a testament the fact that they like the game and they really like to play."
Salina South will host Great Bend (14-6) on Friday.