By AUSTIN COLBERT
COLBY -- Entering the season, the Hays High School boys' basketball team knew what senior forward Brady Werth could do. It found out what junior guard Isaiah Nunnery was capable of Tuesday when he scored 23 points in a 71-42 win over Pratt. Little noticed in that game was the 22 scored by junior guard Keith Dryden.
Then came Thursday, when Dryden forced everyone to take notice as he scored a career-high 26 points in the Indians' 79-27 win over Colby High School at the Colby Community Building, their first true road game this season.
"He's a good shooter. We've thought that all along," HHS coach Rick Keltner said of the 6-foot Dryden.
"He's a good shooter and I know he'd be the first to tell you Isaiah Nunnery does a great job of finding him. Isaiah does so many special things."
Dryden scored a combined 22 points in the three games of the Hays City Shootout, but has 48 during the past two. Most of the 22 he scored against Pratt were in mop-up minutes after Nunnery had his fill. But on Thursday against Colby (0-4), it was all about Dryden from the beginning.
It was Dryden's 3-pointer to open the game that gave Hays High (4-1), No. 3 in Class 4A Division I, the 3-0 lead, a lead that only continued to grow. Colby would never get closer than 5-4 and the Indians led 21-6 after the first quarter, Dryden already with nine points.
By halftime, Hays High was leading 44-14, and Dryden had 16 points to lead all players.
"We want to respect the game and play like it's our last game every night, and I thought the guys did that," Keltner said. "I think the guys are sharing the ball pretty good. We've still got to get so much smoother on some of the things we are trying to do offensively. But the effort was great."
What really stood out in the third quarter -- other than Dryden, who scored his final 10 points in the period -- was the Indians' defense. They outscored the Eagles 24-4, the lead growing to 68-18 by the time the fourth quarter got underway.
Hays High capitalized on numerous Colby turnovers, and it seemed like half the HHS roster had a breakaway layup attempt at some point in the game. Maybe there was no correlation, but having HHS graduate Lane Clark -- one of the best on-ball defenders for the Indians last season -- in the stands didn't hurt.
"I threw his name out in the locker room. Lane would pressure the ball, but if he wasn't on the ball he was kind of trying to find you out, looking, swivel head looking, seeing who they would throw it to," Keltner said. "Sometimes I still think they are freezing on the off side and not really having the killer instinct. We did at times. I thought we had some nice steals. But it's something we can get better at, pressuring the guy with the ball and trying to inch up on him and be ready for the pass."
The final quarter was played with a running clock, Keltner emptying his bench in the final minutes. Behind Dryden's 26, Nunnery and Werth each finished with 11 points. Eleven different players scored for the Indians, including backup junior point guard Drew Young, who saw his first game action this season after breaking his ankle earlier in the fall.
Senior Ashton Russ led Colby with six points.
"I really think we are growing," Keltner said. "We've got some guys coming off the bench and they are getting more experience. We just got to keep trying to get better. We've got a lot to work on."
Barely a week into the season, the Indians have already played through a quarter of their regular-season games. Hays High has one more before the holiday break when they host Junction City High School on Tuesday at the HHS gym.
Hays High 79, Colby 27
Hays High (4-1) 21 23 24 11 -- 79
Colby (0-4) 6 8 4 9 -- 27
HHS -- Keith Dryden 26, Brady Werth 11, Isaiah Nunnery 11, Hobson 6, Winter 6, Jacobs 4, Young 4, Swayne 3, Hopp 3, Ficken 3, Berens 2
Colby -- As. Russ 6, Mazanec 5, Comfort 4, Branum 4, Rinehart 3, Au. Russ 3, Curry 2