McPHERSON — The Hays High School girls’ basketball team gave its opponent multiple opportunities to put the game away.
That’s just what Ulysses did Thursday night in the first round of the Class 4A Division I sub-state at McPherson High School’s Roundhouse.
The Indians were out-rebounded by double figures and saw the Tigers hit 50 percent of their 3-pointers in a 58-45 loss that ended Hays High’s season.
“It’s really sad to end on a loss,” said junior Tasiah Nunnery. “I wish we could have made it to the championship. We tried, but it just didn’t work out.”
The Indians, riding a two-game winning streak entering the sub-state, fell behind early, only to see Nunnery score eight points in the first quarter to keep Hays High within 16-14 after the first period.
Then a basket by junior Savannah Schneider tied the game at 16 to start the second quarter, and the Indians took a 18-16 lead when sophomore Isabel Robben scored.
But Ulysses (14-7) found an answer, thanks to the 3-pointer. The Tigers retook the lead with a triple to start a 21-6 run to end the half ahead 37-24.
“I never expected them to shoot that well from the 3-point line,” said HHS coach Kirk Maska, who watched as Ulysses hit eight of 16 tries from deep. “They hadn’t done that all year. We knew (Mercedes Degollado) could shoot, and she’s kind of streaky — had some good games and bad games. She hit some early, and then (Kali Kenny) coming off the bench and hitting three or four was something we just didn’t expect. When you give them second and third and fourth chances, it’s tough to come back from that.”
While the Tigers shot 50 percent from the 3-point line, they shot only 32 percent from the field — making 19 of 60 attempts — and hit 12 of 19 free throws.
And when Ulysses missed shots, junior Riley Oglevie was there for the rebound. The 6-foot-2 post player collected 17 rebounds, including 12 offensive boards, to go along with 13 points as Ulysses out-rebounded HHS, 47-20.
“We were trying to stay behind her and make her turn to the right,” Maska said. “Usually the first one she didn’t make, but it was the second or third one.”
Hays High (13-8) would come as close as 38-27 early in the third quarter after a 3-pointer by junior Mattie Hutchison, only to see Ulysses hit a 3-pointer. The margin grew to 51-33 at the end of the quarter.
Nunnery, who finished with 16 points, four rebounds, two blocks and two steals, hit her third 3-pointer of the game with 4:57 to play in the game to pull Hays High within 51-41.
“I didn’t expect it because my warmup was really bad,” Nunney said about her shooting, including a 3-for-3 performance from deep. “I was surprised, but then I just kept shooting.”
But that was as close as the Indians — who were playing without junior point guard Kallie Leiker due to illness — would come.
“And every time we got within 10 or so, I thought we would get a stop and hit a basket and put some pressure on them,” Maska said. “They always found an answer at the other end. They played well and played hard and challenged all our shots tonight. We struggled on the offensive end, and I thought we let it bother us a little bit. For a mature team, I didn’t expect that.”
Junior Gina Ballesteros led all scorers with 18 points, and the Tigers also got 12 from Kenny, who hit 4-of-5 attempts from deep off the bench.
Ulysses got 18 second-chance points.
“Their length hurt us a little bit, but they were aggressive and challenged every pass and shot,” Maska said. “Credit to them: They played their game and played it well.”
Hays High started the season 8-1 but went just 5-7 in its final 12 games. The Indians lose two seniors, Tara Hertel and Chaylee Lix.
“We have a lot coming back, so we have a lot to look forward to,” Maska said.