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HHS boys go to foul line to snap skid

By NICK McQUEEN

nmcqueen@dailynews.net

SALINA --  The Hays High School boys' basketball team saw polar opposites of itself in Tuesday's game at Salina South.

First, there was the Indian team that hit 12 of its final 14 free throws and some key shots down the stretch to pick up a 54-48 victory.

But, there also was the Hays High team that missed nine layups after hustle plays, leaving quite a few points out there in what could have been a more comfortable victory.

Nevertheless, a win is a win, and Hays High (11-4) snapped its three-game losing skid.

"I'm really proud of the guys," Indian coach Rick Keltner said. "We had some kids make plays -- would be hard to start naming players."

Leading by five to start the fourth quarter, Hays High used its strong free-throw shooting night to offset its 35 percent shooting night from the field against a four-win Salina South team.

The Indians hit 13 of 17 free throws in the fourth quarter, while Salina South junior guard Justin Stonebraker and the Cougars were attempting the comeback with a barrage of 3-pointers.

"We have good free throw shooters,"  Keltner said. "You want to shoot in pressure situations, and we had some kids do that tonight.

"That's attributed to the kind of kids they are."

The foul shot was there when not many other good shots were falling for the Indians, something that had been a significant problem in its three-game skid.

"I don't know if anyone in the state of Kansas has missed layups as much as we have,"  Keltner said. "I don't say that to beat them up, but when we start dropping those down, that's 18 points."

Hays High managed just enough in the first half to erase an early deficit. Salina South (4-9), while containing Indian 6-foot-6 sophomore Brady Werth, took an 11-6 lead after the first quarter. Stonebraker hit back-to-back buckets in the final 23 seconds.

In the second, juniors Kyler Niernberger and Jordan Windholz provided a surge to keep the Cougars from running away with an upset. Windholz scored five points in the quarter, including a 3-pointer and Niernberger had a 4-point play to pull Hays High back within three after the Indians trailed by seven.

Senior Derek Bixenman tied the game at 23 with a long-range trey, and senior Adam Deterding gave Hays High its first lead, before Stonebraker hit a pair of free throws with :06 left before halftime to tie things up.

Running five in and five out in Indian fashion, Hays High gave the Cougars many matchup problems, said Cougars coach Matt Renk.

"Their second five was very good tonight," Renk said of the Indians. "That's a very athletic second five.

"We might have struggled a bit with them as far as matching up," he said. "They were quick."

Werth got going in the third quarter. After having two at the break, Werth stepped up for six right after intermission and Parker hit a 3 to give Hays High a lead it never relinquished.

Werth's 12 second-half points helped push the Indians' largest lead to eight points, before the Cougars started knocking down some shots in the fourth.

"(Junior Ryan Fox) really contained him in the first half," Renk said of Werth. "... did a very nice job bodying him up.

"In the second half, he got in foul trouble, and we struggled a bit keeping him off the boards," Renk added.

Werth finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, both team highs, while Stonebraker, with two fourth-quarter 3s, scored 18. Hays High, with 11 points from Parker and seven from Niernberger, finished its night 17 of 22 at the free throw line.

"We made some clutch free throws in the fourth quarter," Keltner said. "That's a pressure thing. That's a growing-up factor."

The Indians host Salina Central on Tuesday at the HHS gym. The girls' game begins at 6 p.m. with the boys to follow.