Finally, Mattie Hutchison got what she wanted all season long.
For most players, that would have been a basket. But for the junior defensive workhorse on the Hays High School girls’ basketball team, it was taking a charge.
On Friday night, Hutchison did just that — and it couldn’t have came at a more crucial time for the Indians.
Hutchison’s defensive stand foiled a potential three-point play for Liberal and helped the Indians claim a key Western Athletic Conference win at the HHS gym, 48-41.
“It was filling on the cake,” Hutchison said. “It feels good to get one because I hadn’t had one. Last year, I was usually getting them. But it felt good.”
It came late in the fourth quarter after Liberal (5-1, 0-1) rallied back to make things interesting.
With Hays High (6-1, 1-0) leading 48-41, Liberal senior Ali Lucero faked a 3-pointer and drove the baseline. The driving layup went in, but was negated because Hutchison had cut off the baseline and taken a charge.
“We knew how aggressive they were going to the basket,” said HHS coach Kirk Maska. “In the first half, they kept pulling up and shooting the 5- or 6-footer. That’s how well-coached they are. They know what we like to do. At the end, I don’t know if they got excited or were trying to get the and-ones, but we had two charges. They were huge.”
The offensive foul on Liberal ended any hopes of another comeback, and gave the Indians the win in their WAC opener.
“That’s awesome going into WAC,” Hutchison said. “That’s one of our biggest competitions, we think. We just went in confident, and we succeeded.”
Hutchison also came up big at the free-throw line late. Her two free throws with 1:01 to play made the margin 46-41.
“If I wouldn’t have gotten them, it would have been close,” Hutchison said. “I just focused on making it. They went through, and I was excited about it.”
Hays High took control in the first half, leading 9-6 after the period and 21-14 at halftime.
The lead grew to 23-14 on a basket by sophomore Isabel Robben to start the third quarter.
But with Hays High leading by eight with 5:25 to go in the third, Liberal mounted a rally. The Redskins rattled off a 9-0 run to take a 28-27 lead with 3:15 to go in the quarter.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Maska said. “They are so athletic and so well-coached. They play so hard, and we knew we had to match their energy and excitement. I thought we did. It was a fun game to coach, and I hope it was a fun game to watch.”
Junior Savannah Schneider answered with a 3-pointer at the other end, giving Liberal the lead for only 22 seconds.
That helped HHS lead 32-30 entering the fourth quarter.
The margin increased to 44-37 after five straight points by Robben with 3:07 to play — part of her 14 points in the game.
Liberal pulled within 44-41 before Hutchison sank her two free throws.
“We have rebounds. We have dribblers. We have chargers,” Hutchison said. “We have a lot of weapons on our team. When we use them all together, it’s such a good team to watch. We used most of them tonight.”
Sophomore Machia Mullens led Liberal with 14 points, and Lucero finished with 12.
“It was hard all the way through the game, and we worked really hard,” Hutchison said. “It was a hard game. They played good, but we played good. We just got them at the end.”
Hays High will host Great Bend at 6 p.m. Tuesday in another WAC contest.