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Hays High boys claim TOC title

By AUSTIN COLBERT
acolbert@dailynews.net

DODGE CITY — The play happened suddenly and with such finality there was little doubt from that point on who was in control of the game.

“That was a momentum changer,” Hays High School senior Lane Clark said. “After that happened our student section came down and supported us. They got loud. We just changed. Everything changed.”

It happened off an inbound, when Hays High senior Clayton Riedel heaved a pass to junior Brady Werth, who was running free toward the other end of the court. Werth hauled in the pass and with a couple of quick strides launched himself toward the basket and emphatically threw down a dunk with Wichita East’s Xavier Kelly hot on his heels.

“We practice that. Usually it’s not open, but it was there and he threw it and it was my chance,” Werth said. “I don’t know if we planned the dunk, but I threw that in there.”

Despite being whistled for two fouls in the first 58 seconds of the contest, Werth led the Indians with 17 points in their upset of Wichita East (11-1), No. 2 in Class 6A, 61-51 on Saturday in the title game of the 71st annual Dodge City Tournament of Champions at United Wireless Arena.

It is the second TOC title in program history for Hays High, the other coming in 1955. It is a first for Indian coach Rick Keltner, who is in his 29th year at HHS and had led the school to four previous TOC championship games.

“It’s such a big win today. I’m so proud of the kids. It’s been such a long time since Hays won it,” Keltner said. “They just keep getting better. We are just proud to represent Hays High and Hays, Kansas, and we feel like we come from a special place and want to try and represent well.”

Hays High, despite being undefeated and ranked No. 3 in Class 5A, entered Saturday’s game as underdogs against the athletic Blue Aces. East had dismantled Leavenworth, No. 6 in 5A, 75-47 in their TOC opener on Thursday after building a 27-9 lead after a quarter. Then East held off Maize in Friday’s semifinals 52-48 after having another big early lead.

East looked well on its way to doing the same to Hays High on Saturday when the Blue Aces took an 8-3 lead in the first quarter.

“You could tell we were nervous at the beginning of the game, but we shook out our nerves and started playing like we usually do,” Clark said. “We just settled down and started talking on defense. Started playing smarter.”

Hays High went on a 9-0 run from there and took a 14-12 lead into the second quarter. The Indians led by as much as five points midway through the quarter before a 6-0 run got the Blue Aces back on top. East led 24-22 at halftime.

The third quarter belonged to Hays High. After East tied the game at 29, the Indians took over. A 3-pointer by Riedel late in the quarter was followed by two Riedel free throws, giving Hays High its largest lead of the game at 12 points. HHS led 43-33 going to the fourth.

East controlled the first part of the fourth before Werth’s dunk with just over three minutes to play gave the momentum back to the Indians.

“If you watch SportsCenter, apparently dunks are pretty popular,” Keltner said. “He is getting a mindset that he can dunk. He is averaging probably a dunk or two a game the last couple of games. He is a good dunker and it was there.”

East picked up its defensive intensity the final three minutes, forcing the Indians into numerous turnovers and got as close as 56-51 with 1:06 to play. But the Hays High defense stepped up as well, keeping East from capitalizing on the turnovers and the Indians scored the final five points to put the game away.

Werth, who struggled in a win over Manhattan in Friday’s TOC semifinals, was dominant most of the night against East. He joined senior guard Jordan Windholz, who scored 13 points against East, on the TOC All-Tournament team. Werth was also named the tournament’s Most Inspirational Player.

“Werth does such a good job of using his body. Even seeing City League opponents week after week, Werth probably uses his body better than anybody we’ve seen all year,” East coach Joe Jackson said. “I believe late, out of the five turnovers in the last 60 to 70 seconds, I think we only converted two points out of those last five turnovers. So there was definitely opportunity we created but credit to Hays. They took care of business.”

Riedel, coming off the bench for Werth, was huge for Hays High and finished with 11 points on 4 of 4 shooting. East’s Tyas Martin led everyone with 21 points, the only Blue Ace player in double figures.

The win improves Hays High to 12-0, extending what is already the best start in more than four decades. The Indians will continue their season with a game at Dodge City High School on Friday.

“We just needed to play our game and not their game. If we just came out and did that I knew we would get it done,” Riedel said. “I think we came out with the mindset of winning and we accomplished that goal. We have great team chemistry and I think we are going to go a long ways.”

Hays High 61, Wichita East 51

Hays High (12-0)

Brady Werth 5-7 7-8 17, Jordan Windholz 4-12 3-3 13, Clayton Riedel 4-4 2-2 11, Parker 2-4 1-2 6, Clark 1-5 2-2 5, Nunnery 2-7 0-0 5, Niernberger 1-4 2-4 4. Totals 19-43 17-21 61.

East (11-1)

Tyas Martin 8-18 4-4 21, Samajae Jones 4-12 0-0 11, Kelly 4-8 0-3 8, Jackson 2-9 1-2 5, McGairty 2-6 0-0 4, Fralin 0-0 1-2 1, Champion 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 20-54 7-13 51.

Hays High 14 8 21 18 — 61

East 12 12 9 18 — 51

3-pointers — Hays High 6-21 (Windholz 2), East 4-14 (Jones 3). Rebounds — Hays High 30 (Werth 6), East 31 (Jackson 8). Turnovers — Hays High 14, East 13. Fouls — Hays High 12, East 19. Fouled out — Jackson, East.