Indian girls solid in overtime loss to No. 6 Cougars
By NICK McQUEEN
SALINA -- The result will go in the book as a 40-38 win for Salina South.
For whatever reason, though, Tuesday's overtime loss felt a little more like a win for the Hays High School girls' basketball team.
Probably because for nearly 31 minutes, the Indians (6-8) looked in control of the contest, held arguably one of the better players in the state in check and put forth one of their better defensive performances of the season.
Unfortunately, Salina South senior Megan Holloway did what good players do -- and the Cougars, ranked No. 6 in Class 5A, wouldn't be stopped in the final five minutes.
"Honestly, that just really ticked me off," Indian senior Taylor Herman said of Holloway's second basket of the game that gave Salina South (11-2) just its second lead at the 1 minutes, 6 second mark of the fourth quarter. "She didn't make anything the whole game, then she made that one."
Herman, along with senior April Johnson, shadowed Holloway all night. She didn't make her first basket until the 1:26 mark of the fourth quarter, but finished with nine points to spur the win.
"For three and a half quarters, she was basically shut out," Indian coach Kirk Maska said of Holloway, who came in averaging a little more than 15 points a night in the Cougars' 10-2 start. "Good players rise to the occasion, though.
"She just stepped up and put them on her back and took charge at the end."
The first three and a half quarters did belong to the Indians, though.
Spurred by the play of Herman out on a wing and a strong presence inside with senior Emily Braun, Hays High took an 11-3 lead after the first quarter. Herman scored four and Braun made a pair of free throws, and senior forward Katelyn Schumacher made 1 of 2, to give the Indians a 7-0 lead out of the gate.
"We're just kind of tired of playing bad and not playing together," said Herman, who led the Indians with 11 points. "We're ready for a good win. We gave it our best effort."
It did help that Salina South 5-foot-11 senior Janai Mitchell (10 points, 8 rebound average) was injured early in the game, and was used minimally for a possession or two at a time the rest of the first half, and sparingly in the second. Salina South had one of its worst nights of the season until the fourth quarter.
"I think it changed their plan a bit," Maska said of the injury. "She's a good shooter so we had to guard a bit different from then on, and we got a little more help defense."
Schumacher and Braun took advantage. Braun scored nine points, going 3-for-5 from the floor and 3-for-5 at the free throw line. Hays High had a 20-13 lead at halftime, but did manage only five points through the next 12 minutes, turning the ball over five straight times to start the fourth quarter.
Salina South made a 9-0 run to take its first lead at the 4:01 mark in the fourth.
"Whether it was nerves, getting tired or what, we just had a lack of confidence there for a while," Maska said.
Herman, though snapped the scoreless streak to tie the game back at 25, then hit both ends of a 1-and-1 to regain the Indian lead, then a see-saw battle ensued, and Holloway took command.
Hays High took a 33-31 lead when Schumacher hit a runner in the lane on one trip, then went 1-of-2 at the free throw line with 27 seconds left. Salina South senior forward Cassidy Cook, who had carried the Cougars for three and a half quarters, put back a second offensive rebound for the Cougars as time expired in regulation.
"I really thought we could still do it," Herman said. "We played really well tonight."
The Indians scored the first points in overtime with Johnson hitting a jumper, but a 3-pointer by Holloway with 28 seconds left put Salina South up one. Braun hit 1 of 2 free throws to tie it back up, but Holloway hit a short jumper in the lane with :03 left on the clock for the Salina South win.
"We're really pumped after this game, even though we did lose," Herman said. "We played well, and we're ready to come out again and show what we have."
Hays High hosts Salina Central on Tuesday at the HHS gym. Game time is 6 p.m.