The Indians didn’t quite get off to the same hot start they did in the season opener the night before.
But, it was a good start nonetheless.
Facing Great Bend for the first of three times this season in the semifinals Friday night of the Gerald Mitchell Hays City Shootout, the Indians led big early. Then it was coast mode the rest of the way in a convincing 57-36 victory at the HHS gym.
The win sends Hays High into the finals of its home tournament for the first time since 2006.
Although they didn’t shoot the ball quite as well as the night before in a win against Olathe North, the Indians still were able to build a comfortable 29-9 lead at the half and coasted their way to the victory.
After shooting 4-for-16 from the field, the Indians relied on strong defensive play early.
“We’ve kind of hung our hat on our defense the last few years and I think our offense has finally caught up with our defense,” said Indian coach Kirk Maska. “I wasn’t real disappointed that we were missing those shots, just because we were getting wide open and I knew we’d start hitting those sooner or later. I did think we might foul too much and let them back in it at the free throw line, but we kept answering and got a nice comfortable lead and kind of maintained it.”
The Indian defense shut down Great Bend, giving up just four first-quarter points, and led by nine. Shots started to fall for the Indians throughout the second quarter as they began to capitalize on Great Bend’s 13 first-half turnovers. The Indians went on a 9-0 run in the early stages of the second. Great Bend scored just its second field goal of the game with four minutes to go before halftime.
Then they didn’t miss a beat after intermission, going on a 9-2 run. Great Bend finally was able to find some offensive success, scoring 16 in the third quarter, but it would not be enough to get them back in the game.
After a pair of 3-pointers from Brooke Denning, the Indians were able to put the reserves in midway through the fourth.
Denning led all Indians in scoring with 17 points with four 3s.
“We have eight or nine girls who could be the leading scorer every night, last night it was Savannah and tonight it was Brooke,” Maska said.
Denning was quick to acknowledge her teammates for her success.
“My teammates do a pretty good job of moving the ball and getting me open.”
She did have plenty of open shots and accredited that to the Indian’s style of play.
“We run pretty good in transition and we have good floor spacing and that helps us to get open shots,” she said.
Denning and Kallie Leiker accounted for 15 of the Indians’ 28 first half points. Leiker, who finished with nine, said that when things don’t necessarily go the Indians way, they still find a way to get themselves motivated.
“Even if we do get down, we just know that we can work as a team, communicate and run the floor and that’s how we get back in it,” she said.
Hays High will face a daunting task in their first title-game appearance in 11 years, going up against St. Thomas Aquinas, the No. 1 ranked team in Class 5A and back-to-back 5A state champion.
“It’s been a while, since we’ve been in the finals. I told the girls we’ve always kind of been in the sunshine games and I think they deserve this and they’ve worked hard to get there and hopefully we represent,” Maska said.
The size advantage will go to Thomas Aquinas, but Maska is confident his team can overcome that.
“We’ve been so small for so long that I think we’ve learned to rebound well against bigger teams and they’re definitely going to be a bigger team than we are, but we’re going to be scrappy and welcome the challenge and get after them and give them our best shot. “
Leiker might be nervous, but is ready for the opportunity.
“It’s good to be a little bit nervous, I mean this is going to be a tough team and we know that, but we also know that if we step up, then we have a chance to beat them,” she said.
Hays High boys 82, Life Prep 52
Hays High used an early 11-0 run after falling behind, led by eight at halftime, then rolled in the second half to the blowout victory. The win puts Hays High in the fourth-place game Saturday, a 3:15 p.m. game at Hays Middle School.
Hays High outscored Life Prep 42-20 in the second half. Hays High was led by 16 points for Tradgon McCrae while Ethan Nunnery and Peyton Kieffer each had 11. Cade Swayne also reached double figures with 10.
Hays High will face William Chrisman for fourth.
TMP girls 40, William Chrisman 38
After suffering a loss to Class 5A No. 1 St. Thomas Aquinas on Thursday, the TMP-Marian girls bounced back with a narrow 40-38 victory against Williams Chrisman. The close win came after the Monarchs had built a 22-8 lead by halftime Friday at the Hays Middle School gym.
TMP started the game on a 12-0 run, but then managed just seven points in the third quarter as the Bears climbed back in, and eventually took a short-lived lead in the fourth quarter.
TMP broke a 34-all tie with an Adell Riedel 3-pointer, and the Monarchs never trailed again. Kayla Vitztum had 13 to lead the Monarchs with Aubrey Koenigsman reaching double figures at 10. TMP will face Olathe North in the fourth-place game beginning at 1:30 p.m. at HMS.
William Chrisman boys 58, TMP 50
Despite starting the game on an 8-1 run, the TMP boys fell to the Bears and into Sunday’s seventh-place game of the shootout. After the hot start for TMP, William Chrisman answered with a 15-0 run of its own, and led 18-14 after the first quarter.
William Chrisman then led by as much as 13 with TMP able to make it an 11-point deficit by halftime.
Then at one point in the third quarter, the Bears led by 18 before TMP started to chip away, pulling to within six points before the Bears finished the game at the foul line.
TMP is set to take on Life Prep in the 11:45 a.m. game Saturday at Hays Middle School.
Creighton Renz and Michael Lager each had 14 points to lead the Monarchs. Trent Mayo added 10.