By TYLER PARKS
With the Indian girls participating in the McPherson Tournament, the Hays High School boys' basketball team had the gym nearly to itself Friday night.
Unfortunately for Hays High, Dodge City was there, too, and the Red Demons used a strong second half to leave with a 51-37 win. The loss for Hays High was its third straight.
"I think some of the competition we have played up to this point has helped get us ready for games like this," Dodge City coach Dennis Hamilton said.
The Indians (10-4) struggled to get anything going offensively, shooting just 33 percent from the field in the first half and finishing at 28 percent for the night.
With the shooting woes, Hays High was down six late in the first quarter, but made a late push into the second to take a brief lead.
Dodge City, though, was able to regain a 21-19 lead at the break.
Then, in the third quarter, the Red Demons cut loose, starting the second half on an 8-2 run.
"I think we just picked our intensity up a little better," Hamilton said.
The Red Demons forced six turnovers in the quarter.
"We didn't do anything differently defensively, we were basically doing the same thing," Hamilton said. "Austin Weiser and Rashaan Taylor jumped a few passing lanes and timed a couple cross-court passes. We didn't really talk about it, they did it on their own and got some buckets on the other end."
It seemed every time Hays High got a steal and attempted to capitalize they turned the ball right back over.
"There are a couple times we had steals and we had a guy down court and we just threw it out of his reach or fumbled it or dribbled it too high and they took it right back," Indian coach Rick Keltner said.
Senior Shaphan Gross played an essential part of Dodge City's third-quarter run. He scored eight of his team-high 18 in the third on 4-of-6 shooting from the field.
An eight-point lead at the end of the third quarter only got bigger for the Red Demons, who stayed hot, hitting 7-of-10 from the floor int he final quarter.
A long 3-point shot by Hays High senior Derek Bixenman midway through the fourth cut the Dodge City lead to nine.
That was the closest Hays High got, and the make was one of only three in the quarter for the Indians.
"We have to get better at finishing," Keltner said.
Hays High looked rushed throughout the game and often forced passes that weren't open, and finished with 24 turnovers.
"I don't think we were making mistakes because of the lack of effort," Keltner said. "We missed too many layups and too many shots we need to make to be a good team. I think our guys were just trying too hard."
Dodge City's 2-3 zone held the Indian offense in check most of the first half. Hays High big man, 6-foot-6 sophomroe Brady Werth, had just a pair of free throws in the first half.
"The guys were doing a better job of looking inside at times, but still in the second half when Brady has his guy sealed we weren't recognizing it," Keltner said. "Then when we told them to go inside we were throwing it inside when he wasn't open. It is just a matter of recognition."
Werth had a man on him at all times as well as backside help to prevent the lob. He had a strong second half with 12 points on limited touches.
"We three-quartered Brady and had good support," Hamilton said. "He is an all-conference player obviously and you have to give him attention. Fortunately none of them stepped up on the outside, Bixenman hit some, but we guarded Brady with one and a half, two at times."
The Indians made just four of their 18 attempts from 3-point range.
Dodge City's offense was patient the whole game, working the ball around the perimeter until a clear shot opened up.
The Red Demons finished a little better than 50 percent from the field.
"Anytime you can go on the road in the conference and come to a place like Hays and get a victory, our kids have a lot to be proud of," Hamilton said. "We understand here in a few weeks when they come to our place it will be another dogfight."
Hays High travels Tuesday to take on Salina South.