By MIKE KESSINGER
For a few seconds the Hays High School gymnasium was silent as Liberal's Cade Hinkle lofted a 3-pointer from about 25 feet away from the basket.
The ball dropped straight down above the rim and glazed the iron. It spun once, then again, almost appearing to come out before dropping through the net.
The buzzer sounded -- Liberal 57, Hays High 54. The Liberal bench cleared, running down the court to pile on top of Dinkel, while the Hays High side stood in disbelief in their Western Athletic Conference clash Friday.
"It was an amazing shot," Hays High junior Keith Dryden said. "Props to Hinkle on that."
The trey from the Liberal junior was icing on the cake for a night when the Redskins hit 10 3-pointers coming from five players. It was a resounding stop of any momentum the Indians might have carried into overtime. Hays High trailed by as much as nine in the fourth quarter and was down 53-48 with 1:34 to go. Liberal shot 59 percent from the floor.
"It's been a while since (Liberal) has beat us. They haven't shot that well," Hays High coach Rick Keltner said. "If you look at our season stats, I think teams were shooting 39 percent against us. Tonight, I thought they were a tough match-up because they have guys who were pretty good with the dribbling. I thought they were all pretty efficient in handling the basketball."
The Indians were almost able to force the game into extra minutes by getting some help from outside shots and missed Liberal free throws. An Isaiah Nunnery 3 pulled Hays High with 54-51 with 1:10 left. The Indians fouled Liberal's Merskek Wiltshire twice with under a minute and he missed all four free throws. A Dryden 3-pointer bounced off the rim with less than 30 seconds left. Drew Young grabbed the rebound for Hays High and he shuffled the ball back to Dryden, who knocked down a 3 from the top of the key to tie it. From there, Liberal rushed down the court avoiding a turnover and set up Hinkle's heroics before time ran out.
"When (Hinkle) released it, I was thinking "Please don't go in,' and then I saw it rolling on the rim," Dryden said.
"It was devastating, but we have to forget about it and bounce back. We can't hang our heads and keep mourning on this loss."
Liberal attacked Hays High with different looks from having five guards on the floor to using a box-in-one defense at times on the Indians' 6-foot-7 post Brady Werth. The Redskins held Werth in check with nine points. He did have a team-high nine rebounds.
Dryden led Hays High with 17 points. He had three 3-pointers. Nunnery scored all 13 of his points in the second half.
Hinkle paced Liberal with 19 points, including four 3-pointers, three in the first half. Wiltshire added 13.
Hays High will be out of league play Tuesday for a road game at Abilene. The Indians have dropped three-in-a-row and four of their last five.
"I thought it was a great game," Keltner said. "The last part of the game was awesome. We're going to play on the road next and we're also going to play some games on this floor where hopefully we can learn from it."
Liberal 57, Hays HIgh 54
Liberal 16 12 11 20 -- 57
Hays HIgh 17 7 10 20 -- 54
Liberal -- Hinkle 19, Wiltshire 13, Thomas 7, Fitzgerald 6, Baird 3, Coleman 3.
Hays High -- Dryden 17, Nunnery 13, Werth 9, Berens 8, Young 3, Hobson 2, Winter 2.