Indian girls win second straight, top Abilene
By KLINT SPILLER
ABILENE -- Hays High School girls' basketball coach Kirk Maska didn't have much to complain about after Tuesday's win on the road.
However, like an ever-vigilant coach, that didn't stop him from finding something.
"The only thing I was disappointed about was I think they had quite a few offensive rebounds," Maska said. "We definitely had the height advantage. Other than that, I was really pleased."
Maska's Indians dominated their first of a three-game roadswing, defeating Abilene 51-30. With two wins in a row, it's the first winning streak Hays High (8-9) has had this season after a see-saw start. Abilene dropped to 10-8.
"I feel like now that we've got going, we are ready to prove ourselves," said senior forward Taylor Herman. "We know we are good. We've just got to prove it now."
Hays High's girls shot well, took care of the ball and applied constant defensive pressure on the Cowgirls, but they did somewhat struggle on the defensive glass, surrendering 12 offensive rebounds.
But as a whole, Hays High out rebounded Abilene 35 to 31, and the Indians forced 23 turnovers -- 15 of which were steals.
On the opposite end, Hays High took fairly good care of the ball, only turning it over 15 times with the starters in, which lasted until the final minute of the fourth quarter. It was more than three turnovers better than the season average.
Hays High had 17 in the game.
"We didn't try to play fast," Maska said. "We took the break when we had it, but we did a good job of recognizing when they were back and pulled it up and didn't force things."
Maska said it was a team victory, as the Indians got contributions from throughout their lineup.
Senior forward Katelyn Schumacher led the squad in scoring with 17 points and tied for the team lead with seven rebounds, but all but one Hays High participant scored in the game.
Herman had a solid outing, posting eight points, seven rebounds, two blocks and a team-high five steals.
"I think we all played well together," Herman said. "That always helps when my teammates are playing well. That gets me excited."
Senior guard April Johnson came off the bench and scored nine points on 4-of-4 shooting.
Four of her points came when Hays High was trailing in the first quarter and was struggling to score. Her offense sparked an 8-0 run and gave the Indians a lead they never relinquished.
"She came in and gave us a big spark," Maska said. "Kudos to April, she had a nice game."
Hays High built as much as a 12-point lead late in the second quarter, but Abilene rallied with a 9-0 run stretching midway into the third quarter and narrowed the Indians' lead to 23-20.
Then the Indians responded with a run of their own, scoring 11 unanswered.
"We knew Abilene was going to be well coached, and they were going to jump in and out of things," Maska said. "I thought we adjusted pretty well."
Abilene only had one player reach double figures: 5-foot-11 freshman forward Belle Barbieri. Barbieri comes off the bench, but she has been her squad's leading scorer at 12 per game.
Hays High returns to the road Friday to play Garden City (15-3, 6-0 Western Athletic Conference).
The Indians will need help to defend its 2012 league title.
To earn a share of the WAC championship, Hays High will have to win out at Garden City and Dodge City and at home against Great Bend, and they also will need Garden City to lose to Liberal at home.
"We've got a tough one against Garden City on Friday," Maska said. "We are going to have to be ready for that."
Abilene might have lost the game, but they had a success story on the court.
Senior point guard Carly Gassman made her second start of the season against Hays High.
Gassman, Abilene's top returning scorer from last season, has had three surgeries since March to remove a brain tumor.
Heading into basketball season, Abilene girls' basketball coach Janelle Geist said Gassman expected a clean bill of health at a check up in October, but doctors discovered that cancer remained.
She had to have another surgery on top of multiple radiation and chemotherapy treatments, but despite all of that, Geist said Gassman wanted to be back on the court.
"I think that's what's driven her," Geist said. "She just wants to have a normal senior year."
She didn't start fully practicing until near the end of January, and she has been slowed by months of inactivity. However, Geist said she's been impressed with how Gassman has handled it.
"Her side effects have been minimal as far as the horror stories that you hear," Geist said. "She just lost her appetite and started to drag a little bit at the end of her radiation but just barely. It wasn't anything that was really noticeable.
"I think her being in such good physical shape must have helped her body to be able to handle all of that," Geist said.
Gassman, whose head was partially shaved, has averaged 3.5 points per game this season, and against Hays High, she scored five points and grabbed two rebounds.
Geist said she wanted to give Gassman an opportunity to start. For one, Gassman has improved since coming back from the surgery, and secondly, if she hadn't gotten sick, then she likely would have started this season. She was all-league in 2012.
"She had a phenomenal junior year," Geist said.
Gassman not only has gotten back on the court, but Geist said Gassman received good news.
Geist said Gassman's last checkup showed the surgery worked.