Undefeated HHS boys on road
By KLINT SPILLER
The Hays High School boys' basketball team has gotten off to its fastest start in 17 years, but with winter break and more than two weeks between games, the Indians could be in danger of losing some of their momentum.
However, Hays High head coach Rick Keltner said he's not too concerned about that. While the Indians (6-0) might not have played a game during break, he said the team's competitiveness is strong with such a deep roster.
Keltner has had his players execute a fast-paced style of play and routinely goes 13 players deep with his rotations. With so many capable players, the practices are aggressive.
"They push each other pretty good in practice," Keltner said.
It's the first time the Indians have started 6-0 since the 1995-1996 season. That squad started 7-0 before dropping a game.
This year's squad will put their unbeaten streak to the test in their Western Athletic Conference opener Friday in Liberal.
While Hays High is undefeated, Liberal hasn't had such luck, starting 2-5.
However, Keltner said it's important for his squad to throw out the records, especially with it being just Hays High's second road game of the season.
"I'm sure Liberal is going to be aware that we've gotten off to a good start, so it would really make up for some of their off nights if they beat us," Keltner said. "It's important for us to forget about records and just go play basketball and try to be a good basketball team."
Prior to the winter break, Hays High had gotten extremely strong play from its players.
Sophomore 6-foot-6 center Brady Werth led the squad with 15.3 points, 3.2 blocks and 6.5 rebounds per game as well as a 75.5 field goal percentage.
Junior shooting guard Lane Clark was scoring 9.5 points per game, shooting 14 of 28 from behind the 3-point line, and junior guard Jordan Windholz provided a spark off the bench, scoring 9.2 points per game and adding 3.7 assists per game.
Though his team has played exceptionally well prior to winter break, Keltner said he doesn't want to compare the Indians to some of his best teams quite yet.
"I think we've got the potential to be a good team," he said. "... It is too soon to make comparisons. We just have to keep working hard."
With two straight conference road games, Keltner said his squad will be tested quickly.
"We've got to be road warriors here and be tough," he said. "You've got to take care of each other. We are going to go into a gym where the majority of the crowd is going to be pulling against you."
Meanwhile, the Indian girls got off to a slow start prior to the break.
After going 17-5 last season, Hays High is just 3-3 so far this year with its most recent loss to Pratt -- a 52-28 blowout at the Indians' gym.
Hays High has struggled finding offensive threats beyond senior forward Katelyn Schumacher.
Schumacher has averaged 10.3 points per game. Other than her, Hays High has gotten strong performances from senior point guard Janae Gagnon (7.7 points), senior guard Kaitlin Gulley (5.5 points) and senior forward Taylor Herman (5.2 points), but it hasn't been consistent.
"We've got to find a couple more girls," said Hays High head coach Kirk Maska. "I thought with seven seniors that we'd get three or four that would score 10 or more points besides Katelyn Schumacher, and that's not even close to happening."
It's not as if a rough start will doom this squad. In fact, last year's 17-5 team was in the exact same position at the start of last season.
The Indians suffered a blowout loss to Riley County in the Hays City Shootout and also fell to Pratt before righting themselves during WAC play.
Maska hopes for a similar result after winter break this year, especially if his squad wants to defend its WAC championship.
The Indians will go on the road to face Liberal (3-4) on Friday and Great Bend (3-2) on Tuesday.
"If you want to win the league, then you've got to win most of your road games," Maska said.
Maska said he's satisfied with much of his squad's play. The only aspect that has truly concerned him has been the Indians' inability to score, especially recently.
The Indians are shooting 40.9 percent from the field and 21.7 percent from the 3-point line, and against Pratt, Hays High shot just 23.3 percent from the field and 14.3 percent from the 3-point line.
"I think we are getting better at all phases of the game except putting it in the basket," Maska said.
He said he isn't sure who, but someone has to step up.
"I'm looking for Katelyn to be a 15 or 16-point person per game, and I'm looking for two or three to raise their average to around 10," Maska said.