Hays High balanced in opening win
By CONOR NICHOLL
Last season, for the first time in coach Rick Keltner's 35-year coaching career, he had zero seniors. The Hays High School boys' basketball team finished 6-15. This season, the Indians returned many of the same players, and added a couple others, namely senior forward Adam Deterding and freshman point guard Isaiah Nunnery.
Hays High played at a quick tempo, ran the floor with confidence and rolled past Colby 69-23 in the first round of the Hays High Shoot-Out in the season opener Thursday night at HHS Gym.
"We have gotten stronger," Keltner said. "I told people that we were kind of the little brothers and now the little brother is a year older. Try to be a little tougher this year. Keep on working hard to get better. Try to get a little bit of respect back."
Hays High shot 50 percent from the field and had runs of 8-0, 14-2 and 18-0 to take control. Colby hasn't been a strong team for a couple of years, and Hays High did defeat the Eagles twice last season.
However, Indian senior guard Derek Bixenman, the lone returning all-WAC player, found plenty of positives in the victory. HHS will face Newton in the semifinals today. Start time is 8:15 p.m. Hays High ran a zone press effectively.
"We just kind of need to get going and run the court," Bixenman said. "That was the main emphasis, just run the court, run as fast as you can."
Hays High played 15 Indians, subbed liberally and had 12 players score. Sophomore Brady Werth and junior Jordan Windholz -- a starter last year, but a reserve this winter -- each finished with 10 points.
"It's a really positive sign," Bixenman said.
"We put up good numbers, and I think we can compete with anybody, seeing this game. But we just have to keep working, getting better every day. ... It's really nice to have depth. I could care less about last year. This is this year. We have a whole team together, and I think we can go places."
Senior guard Nick Petz showed marked improvement from last season when he was a reserve. Petz hit three 3s and showed more strength than last winter.
"He has worked hard and he is trying to get better," Keltner said. "He is one of several kids that we have that I think have worked hard, and gotten better and stronger and I think that is definitely going to help our team."
Because of the low numbers last year, Werth had to start in the post as a freshman most of the year. He displayed improved physicality, too.
"In practice, his shot is amazing," Bixenman said of Petz. "Hand in his face, no hand in his face, deep balls, whatever. He will hit the 3. He will be working on it a lot. (Brady is a) good presence. He has obviously gotten stronger, bigger and tougher in everything. He has obviously gotten more experience under his belt playing all of last year. I think he is a really good addition to this team."
Deterding, a state champion high jumper and hurdler and an all-state caliber receiver, didn't play basketball last season, but decided to come back out this winter. He started at power forward. Kyler Niernberger, another reserve from last season, ran the point effectively and consistently collected steals that led to fast break points.
"It's been so competitive for spots," Keltner said. "I couldn't have told you coming in who was going to be our point guard. Kyler has just had a bounce in his step, he has got great body language and that's important for a point guard. I sent all the kids an article from Sports Illustrated.com that Seth Davis wrote last week that talked about Duke's improvement this year. They think it's because their point guard's body language is better. I like Kyler's body language."
Nunnery scored within his first 10 seconds of entering the game and saw extended minutes. He is expected to be in the mix at point guard.
"He is a very, very good freshman," Bixenman said. "Probably the best freshman that I have ever seen play. I haven't seen a whole lot of freshmen play, but he is really good. He is a good kid."