By NICK McQUEEN
Neither coach really had a plausible explanation for what they saw Thursday night at the HHS gym.
For Hays High School girls' basketball coach Kirk Maska was befuddled by the effort he saw on the floor, while Pratt coach Dean Rausch was completely shocked at his squad's performance given the circumstances.
Pratt, riddled by illness on the trip to Hays and during the game, put together its best offensive performance of the season. Meanwhile, Hays High struggled early and often. Both teams sit at 3-3 after a 52-28 blowout win for the Greenbacks.
"You're going to have bad games shooting the ball," said Maska, whose team fell into an 8-0 hole in their final game before the holiday break. "The thing I am most disappointed in is we have seven seniors and we had no intensity.
It was Pratt's fourth straight victory against the Indians.
"We had nobody step up and take charge," he added. "That's the only disappointing thing."
Pratt had to have someone step up. Earlier in the day, starting freshman point guard came down with the stomach flu, and the Greenbacks' backup point guard developed the same illness.
"It's never been to us about a win or a loss -- it's about meeting our potential," Raus said. "And, i got to see a lot of kids play against what I consider a very good Hays team."
Raush brought sophomore Haylie Hook up from the junior varsity to run the point.
She scored 11 points to lead the way for five Pratt players who put up at least eight points.
Hook hit two 3-pointers as part of Pratt's 8-0 start. Meanwhile, Hays High couldn't buy a bucket until the 4:55 mark of the first quarter, when senior Emily Braun broke the drought.
Hays High struggled inside against Pratt's 6-foot-3 senior center Payton Hoeme.
"She influenced it a lot," Maska said. "It's nothing we haven't seen. We tend to put the ball above our head and throw it right into arms.
"I don't know if it was her intense defense," Maska added. "She's a great player, but we played right into her height."
Hays High hit just 5 of 25 shots in the first half, and found itself down by 20 at intermission. Pratt hit three second-quarter 3s as the onslaught continued.
"(Wednesday), we did a 30-minute drill on 3-pointers and they got tired," Rausch said of his team. "But, they kept going and going and going, and shot through the tiredness. That influenced them, because they knew they could shoot tired."
At halftime, senior Whitney Tilley, another starter, became too ill to come back out as well.
The illness turned out to be a blessing in disguise, Rausch said. Had he had his full squad, he would have put them in a man-to-man defense. Instead, he went to the zone and press coverage, and Hays High struggled.
"What I was going to do was probably going to be wrong," Rausch said. "What I had to do turned out to be right. When everyone started getting the flu, I didn't know what else to do."
Hays High hit just 11 of 47 shots from the floor, but was 5-of-7 at the free throw line, but never managed more than nine points in a quarter, those coming in the fourth.
"Their intensity on defense caused us to to not take very good shots," Maska said. "They were frustrating shots. I give credit to Pratt. They beat us in every phase of the game. We were out-coached, and we've got to fix it."
Senior forward Katelyn Schumacher did put up 11 points and grab nine rebounds for Hays High. She scored six in the first half and five in the second. Pratt, a 29-percent shooting team coming in, hit 21 of 46, including eight 3s.
"Call it an early Christmas present or something," Rausch said. "Because, I don't normally see those kids shooting that well."
Hays High is off until Jan. 4 when the Indians travel to Liberal to being Western Athletic Conference play.
"Unfortunately, there are a lot of things after tonight we have to get better at," Maska said. "You have to bring more intensity to practice. You play like you practice and we have to change that."