Sometimes, team’s just can’t quite find an answer.
That was the case Tuesday night for the Hays High School boys’ basketball team.
The Indians rallied to take the lead, only to see Abilene come back with a run of its own as the Cowboys held on for a 66-62 win at the HHS gym.
“You have to give Abilene credit. They made some plays,” said HHS coach Rick Keltner. “They did a good job with their big kids inside. They did what they do better than we did what we do. And they added some 3-point shooting on top of their post play. They had some kids step up and hit some 3s.”
Hays High (11-6) had one of its lowest scoring quarters this season while finding itself trailing 15-8 after the first eight minutes.
That was due in part to Abilene’s zone defense that frustrated the Indians with the exception of senior Cole Murphy early.
Murphy had four 3-pointers in the first half, and senior Peyton Kieffer added two of his own, but Hays High trailed 28-26 at halftime.
“I thought maybe we could shoot them out of the zone,” Keltner said. “But they did a good job with it.”
Abilene pushed the lead to 30-26 to start the third quarter, but junior Tradgon McCrae ended a quick 9-0 spurt by the Indians with a pair of treys, giving HHS a 35-30 lead with 6:34 to play in the quarter.
But with Hays High leading 37-33 after a steal and layup by senior Ethan Nunnery at the 5:19 mark, the Cowboys went on a 12-0 run to close the period with a 45-37 advantage.
“It’s hard,” said Nunnery, who finished with 18 points. “We scored about nine points at the beginning of the third quarter, then just two points after that the rest of the quarter. It was tough. They made free throws and hit big shots.”
The margin grew to 10 twice in the fourth quarter before Nunnery converted a three-point play to pull Hays High within 61-55 with 51.8 seconds remaining.
But the Indians would come no closer than that until sophomore Dylan Ruder hit a putback at the final horn.
“At the end, if we would have done a better job with some of their runs, we would have been right where we wanted to be,” Keltner said. “But we would give up plays when we would make a run. They made plays.”
Nunnery scored 14 of his points in the final quarter.
“That’s what I did against Junction basically,” Nunnery said about a 30-point outing earlier this season. “It wasn’t enough to get us there, though.”
“I was very proud of Ethan,” Keltner said. “He’s a guy that’s hard to guard. When he plays under control and dissects the defense, he’s a tough guy to guard. He’s had some great games for us, and tonight he did a good job for us.”
Murphy finished with 15 points, and Kieffer added 12 as Hays High hit 13 3-pointers in the game. Hays High has hit 193 treys this season, a new school record eclipsing the old mark of 189 during the 1995-96 season.
Abilene was led by senior Noah Wildman’s 20 points, and senior Tucker Robinson finished with 13. Sophomore Travis Beetch and junior Preston Boyd each had 11.
Hays High, which is still undefeated in WAC play, will host Garden City on Friday night.
“Garden is right behind us, and we get a chance to have a home game on a Friday night against a good basketball team,” Keltner said. “If you’re a basketball guy, then you should be excited about getting to play that game.”