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HHS falls in third-place game

By TYLER PARKS

sports@dailynews.net

COLBY -- Suffering back-to-back losses for the first time this season, the Hays High School boys' basketball team finished fourth Saturday in the Colby Orange & Black Classic.

A cold second quarter hurt the Indians in a 67-53 loss to Wichita West.

After a rough offensive game in Friday's 43-30 loss to McCook, Neb., a second quarter drought Saturday by the Indians put them behind 25-19 at half against the Pioneers, a team Indian coach Rick Keltner thought would be playing in the tourney's championship game.

Hays High (9-3) scored all of its six points in the second quarter on free throws, going 0-for-8 from the field.

Fouls were a problem for the Pioneers (4-8), who commited 15 in the first half. However, Hays was unable to capitalize. The Indians struggled from the free throw line in the first half, making 10 of their 20 attempts before the break. They finished the game at 60 percent, making 21-of-35.

"To be a tournament team we have to make free throws we missed 14 tonight. So among other things we need to work on we need to focus on free throws," Keltner said.

Hays High hit 59 percent from the line in the tournament, just below its season average of 63 percent. The back-to-back losses came after a 70-19 blowout in the tourney opener against Burlington, Colo.

"We have shot more free throws this year than any other team I've coached, so we need to get better," Keltner said.

Sophomore Brady Werth added another double-double to his resume with a team-high 24 points and 11 boards.

Junior Lane Clark started the second half with a 3-pointer for the Indians that sparked a 7-0 run and tied the game at 26, but an 18-9 run by the Pioneers to finish the quarter left the Indians down by eight heading into the final quarter.

The Pioneers capitalized on Hays High's 14 turnovers, though, scoring 17 points off miscues.

"They are quick, if you look at their scores they have played everybody tough," Keltner said. "They're a good team, I thought coming in they'd be in the finals.

"We have to keep believing, we can't go back we just have to keep trying to get better and keep enjoying the game," the coach added. "It is a great game just disappointing when you lose. We were trying to get the ball inside, we just need to get other people involved."

Senior Kennedy Bates led the Pioneers with 20 points and seven boards. Bates continuously attacked the basket and challenged Hays High's defense.

"Defensively, I thought they killed us on dribble penetration and dishing out," Keltner said. "We didn't match up with them very well tonight."

Bates drew six fouls and made eight of his 14 free throw attempts.

The Pioneer's aggressive offense the Indians in foul trouble, making a comeback difficult as Keltner was forced to substitute players in and out of the lineup.

Hays High is off until hosting Dodge City on Friday in its return to Western Athletic Conference action. Game time is 5:45 for the junior varsity at the HHS gym, with the varsity game to follow.