The full court pressure that has been vital for the Hays High girls did what it was designed to do again on Tuesday night against Pratt.
Hays High's press got to the Greenbacks early, with the Indians using turnovers to create offense in transition and jump out to a 9-0 lead.
But even when the Indians weren't able to set up the press, Hays High found ways to keep Pratt out of rhythm in the halfcourt.
It all added up to a solid defensive outing and a 49-40 home victory for the Indians heading into the holiday break.
“The press has been kind of our backbone the whole year, which was to be expected,” Hays High coach Alex Hutchins said. “But what I was really pleased with tonight was that we saw some more trapping in the halfcourt. We did a better job of forcing some turnovers even though we didn’t score.
“Right now our fullcourt press is kind of our best weapon, but we got to put the ball in the basket to press full court — sometimes that doesn’t happen for us as much as we’d like. It’s been good to kind of see them take advantage of some of the halfcourt trappings too.”
Pratt countered Hays' 9-0 run to open the game with an 11-2 spurt and remained on the Indians' heels for most of the way. Hays (3-2) led 24-19 at halftime and never let the Greenbacks (4-3) get closer than five points in the second half, answering each one of Pratt's mini runs.
“I was pleased with the effort,” Hutchins said. “It was kind of a game of runs. A swing for us, a swing for them.
“What we talked to the girls about: You see the flashes. You see the short spurts of what we’re trying to get to. And then we’ll have a lapse here or there — whether it’s offensively, missing shots, or defensively, a breakdown in communication. But pretty pleased with the effort as a whole.”
Hays started gaining some separation late in the third quarter. The Indians opened up an 11-point lead after a bucket inside from Jaycee Dale followed by a 3-pointer from Brooke Denning.
The Greenbacks were still within single digits late in the fourth before a 3 from Hutchison restored an 11-point cushion with 1:17 left.
Savannah Schneider scored 9 of her game-high 13 points in the first quarter while Dale turned in a solid game inside, contributing 10 points.
“Jaycee, quite frankly, has been our rock this season,” Hutchins said. “You look at the box scores, you look at the book, and other people are scoring, but Jaycee does a lot of things that we don’t have anyone else on our team to do those things. Jaycee posts up harder than anyone else we have, she battles on the glass harder than anyone else we have.
“Even though the point totals don’t always show it, Jaycee’s about as a crucial as anybody for our team. It’s always nice to see her reap the rewards of all that work down low and get some buckets.”
It was a balanced attack for the Indians, with Tasiah Nunnery adding eight and Hutchison seven.
“We’ve got seven girls that can be our leading scorer any given night,” Hutchins said. “Sometimes it’s balanced, sometimes one or two have a hot night.”
Kaitlyn Rasmussen led Pratt with 11 points.
The Indians won't play again until after the holiday break, traveling to Liberal on Jan. 4.
“I’m pleased with where we’re at,” Hutchins said five games into his first year with the Indians. “We knew there would be some growing pains as far as doing some new things and trying to get comfortable in some of the stuff that we’re doing. To an extent, we’re still experiencing that, which is to be expected, but I’m excited about what we see."