Hays High first-year girls basketball coach Alex Hutchins was anxious to see how the Indians' preferred style of play would translate from practice into a game setting.
It didn’t take long for Hutchins to find out the answer in Thursday’s season opener against Great Bend.
Utilizing full-court pressure and getting out in transition, the Indians jumped all over the Panthers early, ripping off a 12-0 run in the first two minutes of the game en route to a 79-44 victory in the first round of the Gerald Mitchell Hays City Shootout at Hays High.
“The biggest relief and the thing I feel the best about is the fact that, for the most part, we played the way we practiced and we prepared,” Hutchins said. “As a coach, you can spend those first two and a half, three weeks preparing for a certain way of playing, but you never really know if it’s going to work out or not until you tip that first game.”
Minus a snag in the second quarter, Hays High dominated throughout, moving to the Shootout semifinals to face Manhattan at 5:15 p.m. Friday at HHS.
The Indians led 25-7 late in the first quarter before Great Bend unleashed a 14-2 run to get within four in the second frame. But the Indians pushed the lead to 10 (37-27) at halftime and then used pressure to break away again in third quarter, taking a 58-38 advantage into the fourth.
“This is a group that thrives in transition, so we wanted to create as many of those opportunities as we could. Early on, we did that,” said Hutchins, a Scott City native who coached in Colorado last season before being announced as Hays High coach last May. “You kind of saw in the second quarter our conditioning, or lack thereof, kind of kick in. But the girls did a great job of kind of staying aggressive all night.”
Hays senior Savannah Schneider scored a game-high 21 points, hurting the Panthers inside and out while going 8 of 13 from the field including a pair of 3-pointers.
“Savannah is deceptively quick,” Hutchins said. “She takes long strides and kind of gets where she wants with the ball. Once she kind of hits a couple buckets, the other team likes to deny her and she did a good job back cutting a few times tonight too.”
Hays forced the Panthers into 29 turnovers for the game, including 11 in the first quarter.
“The pressure of us getting on them was super good at the beginning,” Schneider said. “I was so proud of us. That really got us momentum for the rest of the game."
Schneider agreed with her coach that the Indians briefly ran out of steam in the second quarter before recovering in the third.
“I think we honestly just got really winded,” Schneider said. “It’s the first game of the season so we’re not used to that. Once we figured out that you don’t have to go 100 miles per hour — you can pass the ball around and make them tired — I think that really helped us.”
Junior Brooke Denning added 16 points for the Indians while senior Mattie Hutchison and junior Tasiah Nunnery chipped in nine and eight, respectively.
Hutchins said bench production should be a luxury for the Indians. He started Jaycee Dale, Kallie Leiker, Schneider, Isabel Robben and Hutchison on Thursday. Denning, Nunnery and Brooklyn Schaffer all got big minutes off the bench, combining for 31 points.
“Who starts might kind of change based on the night," Hutchins said. "It’s a tough sacrifice, knowing that you’re a starter-worthy player and not being able to start every game, but I expect two, three, four people off the bench to contribute for us every night just because we have a lot of people (on the bench) who are just as good as the people on the court.”
Jaclynn Schroder led Great Bend with 13 points.