GARDEN CITY — It has been a season of discovery for Hays High School girls basketball coach Kirk Maska, the first half of which has been somewhat mysterious to the veteran coach as to how to mix his roster of players from all four of the classes.
On Friday night, Maska might have uncovered some of those questions when he went from a normal 11-12 player rotation to an 8-9 mix. The result provided the Indians with just the right balance in what turned out to be a 45-37 victory over the Garden City Buffaloes in a Western Athletic Conference tilt.
“Just trying to find the right continuity has been a challenge,” a smiling Maska said in the aftermath of his team’s first WAC win in three games after losses to Great Bend and Liberal. “We played nine, not the 12 that we’ve been playing. We’re just trying to find out where we need to be, and as much as you’d like to get everyone in, the main thing is to find a way to win the game.”
Of the nine roster players who did find their way into the game, all of them scored, with Talyn Kleweno leading the way with 13 points.
It was, in fact, the 5-foot-8 junior’s two free throws and dagger-like 3-pointer just past the midway point of the fourth quarter that extended the Indians’ advantage from 36-32 to 41-32. As it turned out, that was just enough breathing space for Maska’s squad to win despite sinking only 4 of 13 charities down the stretch.
But it was enough to provide the Indians with their fourth win of the season against five losses and put them at 1-2 in the WAC, with a Tuesday game at Dodge City rounding out the first round of the double-round robin format in the league.
“We moved the ball so much better in the second and third quarters and played pretty good in parts of the fourth,” Maska said.
But the start wasn’t exactly what Maska had in mind as the Buffs jumped out to an early 9-1 lead less than three minutes into the game, but the Indians began to get into a rhythm and cut the deficit to 11-9 by the end of the quarter.
The second quarter was where the Indians found their stride and it catapulted them into a 25-20 halftime lead, outscoring Garden 16-9. Senior Audra Schmeidler and freshman Mattie Hutchison provided long-range scoring with each knocking down a 3-pointer. Four different players got in the scoring mix during that stretch.
“For us to be a better team, we’ve gotta play fast because in a half-court set, we kinda get really bad,” Maska said.
The resulting pressure that the Indians applied caused Garden City to turn the ball over 22 times, yet the Indians kept them close by committing 23 miscues of their own.
An 8-2 run to start the third period pushed the Indians’ margin to 11, 33-22, with 3:10 to go and they were in front by eight, 34-26, heading to the final eight minutes.
A mini 6-2 run by the Buffs to open the fourth cut the Hays lead to four, 36-32, but that was as close as it would get due to the two charities and killer trey by Kleweno within a span of 29 seconds.
“We kinda went into a funk for a couple of minutes there in the fourth,” Maska said. “We missed a bunch of free throws, but we managed to hit some right at the end, so it all turned out good.”
The Indians had a slender 29-26 rebounding advantage, with Schmeider pulling down six. Garden’s Josie Calzonetti matched that output to lead the Buffs. Junior guard Abbie Dart scored 17 points to lead all scorers, hitting 6 of 11 field goals and was perfect in four trips to the free throw line.
“Winning on the road is hard enough in and of itself,” Maska said. “So this feels really good. As a group, we just played better. We were more steady and got contributions from a number of the girls.”Garden City, which has now lost three straight WAC games, hosts Ulysses on Tuesday in a non-league game. The Buffs fell to 4-6 overall and 0-3 in the league.
Hays High 45, Garden City 37
HAYS HIGH (45)
Kleweno 4-10 4-4 13, George 3-6 0-0 6, Leiker 1-2 0-0 2, Dinkel 1-2 2-4 4, Schneider 1-2 0-5 2, Hutchison 2-5 2-4 7, Keller 1-3 0-0 2, Schmeidler 1-4 3-6 6, Dale 1-4 1-1 3. Totals 15-38 12-24 45.
GARDEN CITY (37)
Peitz 0-1 0-0 0, Munoz 1-6 0-0 3, Dart 6-11 4-4 17, Stinemetz 0-0 0-0 0, Flowers 0-1 0-0 0, Butler 1-2 3-4 5, Longoria 1-2 0-0 2, Calzonetti 3-11 0-0 6, Bellows 2-2 0-0 4, Calvillo 0-0 0-0 0, Hogan 0-5 0-0 0, Long 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-41 2-13 37.
Hays High (4-5, 1-2) 9 16 9 11 — 45
Garden City (4-6, 0-3) 11 9 6 11 — 37
3-point goals—Hays 3-8 (Kleweno 1-4, Hutchison 1-2, Schmeidler 1-2), Garden City 2-13 (Munoz 1-5, Dart 1-5, Flowers 0-1, Calzonetti 0-2). Rebounds—Hays 29 (Schmeidler 6), Garden City 26 (Calzonetti 6). Turnovers—Hays 23, Garden City 22. Fouls—Hays 13, Garden City 18. Fouled out—none. Technical fouls—none.