Top-ranked Indians on road
By AUSTIN COLBERT
Hays High School senior guard Kyler Niernberger learned early on scoring isn't his specialty, and it's a fact he has taken to heart. He has a different role on the Hays High boys' basketball team, and it's these individual roles that have helped guide the Indians to a 12-0 start.
"In the second practice of the year, we all got in a circle and we made an agreement we would do whatever it takes to make the team better," Niernberger said. "Winning is fun. It doesn't matter if you score 30 points, or zero points, if you win it's fun for us. We like to do whatever it takes to win the game and make our teammates better."
When it comes to playing his role, nobody has done it better than Niernberger this season. As one of the five starters, he only averages 3.2 points per game but leads the team with 7.3 assists per contest and commits only 2.3 turnovers.
Niernberger, alongside fellow senior starter Kade Parker, is a key reason junior post player Brady Werth gets 15.3 points a game and senior guard Jordan Windholz brings in 12.5 points a game. Parker, who averages 4.8 points and 1.8 assists a game, and Niernberger are the glue that makes the Indians' offense go.
"Me and Kyler are kind of the main passers on the team. We find the open players and get shots for everyone else," Parker said. "We knew this year was going to be special and we knew me and Kyler would be part of the starting five -- a big part of it. We knew at the beginning of the season that we had to hold everyone together."
And at 12-0 coming off the school's first Dodge City Tournament of Champions title since 1955, it all seems to be working. Hays High was rewarded this week for knocking off Wichita East, then ranked No. 2 in Class 6A, 61-51 in the TOC championship game. The Indians are the No. 1-ranked team in Class 5A, jumping Lansing and Goddard Eisenhower despite neither team losing a game.
It is the first time Hays High has been ranked No. 1 since the 2000-2001 season.
"We know that now we are No. 1 the target on our backs is a little bit bigger," Parker said. "It's just a number. We try to not let it get into our head. We need to stay focused and keep doing what we are doing."
The Indians will take their No. 1 ranking on the road Friday night when they visit Dodge City High School for a pivotal WAC game.
Hays High hasn't won the WAC since 2006, and Dodge City (4-6, 2-0 WAC) is one of those teams that always gets in the way. The last time Hays High defeated Dodge City was during the 2009-2010 season, a 56-49 win in Hays. Since then it's been six straight losses for the Indians, including a 53-36 loss at Dodge City last year.
"In my high school career I've never beaten Dodge," Niernberger said. "It's just one of those things where I don't want to get ahead of myself, but it will feel nice if we can get a win down there. We need to come to the game focused and determined to get the win more than ever."