Abilene shoots past HHS boys

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

ABILENE -- Behind an impressive 3-point shooting display, the Hays High School boys' basketball team made it a ballgame heading into the fourth quarter against state-ranked Abilene.

Hays High made 9 of 17 from beyond the arc through three quarters, but in the fourth, the Indians' hot shooting froze and nothing fell for them. The Indians failed to make a basket until sophomore guard Cash Hobson made a jumper with 22 seconds remaining in the game.

Because of that, Abilene's 41-40 lead turned into a 62-44 final score.

"In the fourth quarter, we couldn't make a shot," said head coach Rick Keltner. "... That's a bad time to quit making shots."

The Cowboys (15-3), ranked No. 9 in Class 4A, put on an impressive shooting display of their own, making 21 of 34 (61.8 percent) from the field. Hays High dropped to 11-6.

"That was the best ball game we've played in a month," said Abilene head coach Terry Taylor. "It really was."

Abilene continued a long streak and broke one on the same day.

The Cowboys won their 23rd home game in a row and won their first game against Hays High since Dec. 4, 1997 -- a five-game losing streak.

"We've had some really good ball games against them, but we just hadn't beaten them," Taylor said. "We had pointed toward this game since Friday night when we had a really poor outing at Wamego. We said this was a key game of our season to play a good 5A school and match their intensity."

Part of the reason why Hays High took so many 3-pointers was because Abilene dominated in the paint.

Hays High's leading scorer, sophomore 6-foot-6 center Brady Werth, had to go up against Abilene's 6-foot-8 senior center, Jacob Harms.

Harms won the battle, scoring 16 points, while Werth attracted Abilene's attention all night and finished with just four points on 1-of-3 shooting and four rebounds.

"Brady had some trouble catching the ball and finishing tonight," Keltner said. "It wasn't one of his better games."

Senior guard Nick Petz came off the bench and was a significant reason why Hays High was even in the game at the start of the fourth quarter.

He scored 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc. Hays High finished 9 of 24 from 3-point range.

"(Keltner) said to shoot when you're open, and I just did that," Petz said. "I was trying to make a play for my team so we could get back in it."

Harms had a solid game, making 6 of 7 and 4 of 4 free throws, but he wasn't Abilene's best player.

Senior guard Andy Wilson led the Cowboys in scoring and rebounding with 19 points and seven boards. He made 6 of 8 shots and 5 of 7 free throws.

"They are on their home court, and they are ranked in the state," Keltner said. "They are a good team."

Hays High staged a couple rallies before finally falling behind big.

The Indians trailed by 12 points with two and a half minutes to go in the first half and went on an 8-1 run to narrow the lead to 28-23 at halftime.

Then with a minute and a half to go in the third, Hays trailed by 10, and the Indians made three straight 3-pointers -- two by Petz and one by freshman point guard Isaiah Nunnery -- to bring it within 41-40.

But then the fourth quarter happened, and Hays High made just 1 of 11 and 2 of 4 free throws in the final period.

Meanwhile, Abilene put up 21 fourth-quarter points.

Hays High next will play Friday at Garden City (12-6, 3-3 WAC).

Hays High, 3-2 in league play, are a game behind Dodge City (10-7, 4-1 WAC) in the Western Athletic Conference standings.

"We just weren't strong enough (against Abilene)," Petz said. "We have to talk more as a team. I think we have a good group here. If we just play together, we'll be all right."