Even when the Hays High boys literally couldn’t hit an outside shot on Tuesday night at home against Pratt, coach Rick Keltner felt the Indians were still finding ways to impact the game for the long haul with their energy level and hustle.
“Our kids battled,” Keltner said. “Even when we’re behind and things are going bad, our guys are often the first people on the floor for loose balls, and I think that’s a sign of character.”
Hays was tied at 24 with Pratt at halftime despite going 0 for 19 from the 3-point range in the first half. But the Indians adjusted to find different ways to score after halftime, dominating the Greenbacks in the second half to take a 67-41 win heading into the holiday break.
The Indians (3-2) outscored Pratt 19-8 in the third quarter before breaking it open with a 24-9 fourth.
“Our depth kind of softened them up,” Keltner said. “It was kind of like a heavyweight fight. We softened them with body blows early, and toward the end we had it going a little bit.
“With our depth, we’re hoping to wear people down,” he added. “I thought we got better as the game went on and I was really happy and thankful for the way we finished.”
Senior guard Trae McCrae paved the way for the Indians with a game-high 20 points. McCrae got the Indians going offensively in the third, finding players in the post and driving to the basket.
“At halftime we were 0 of 19 from 3-pointers so we knew we had to feed the post, because they were open and they were calling for the ball,” McCrae said. “We just ignored them in the first half. In the second half, obviously we got them the ball and they scored. If they were covered, we got the ball inside and out and it got us open threes and that’s how we scored a lot in the second half.”
“I thought Tradgon McCrae kind of got it going for us,” Keltner said. “We kind of went to the old Pearl Washington set, the Syracuse set, and I think it kind of got him going.”
After missing their first 20 shots from beyond the arc, the Indians hit their last five 3-pointers, starting with a Jason Krannawitter trey that put the Indians up by eight in the third. McCrae then ended the third frame with a step-back 3 at the buzzer to give Hays High a 43-32 lead.
“There was like six seconds left and I had it up top and I knew I had to make a play,” McCrae said. “It was a good way to end the quarter, gives us momentum heading into the fourth.”
Hays was solid all game defensively, particularly down the stretch.
“We’re tall, we’re long and we can can get good deflections,” McCrae said. “If we play hard defense, we make it uncomfortable for the other team."
McCrae was the only Indian in double figures but T.J. Nunnery added nine while Cade Swayne and Tucker Johnson added eight and seven, respectively.
Nate Kolm led Pratt (2-4) with 12 points.
The Indians won’t return to action until Jan. 4, traveling to Liberal as they begin their defense of their Western Athletic Conference championship.
“I’m very encouraged,” Keltner said. “I think we’ve learned a lot about our team. Some guys are getting their first five games of varsity experience. They’re good young players, but we’ve got to learn about going side to side on offense and making the easy pass and not turning it over.
“We’re defending WAC champs and we play Liberal right out of Christmas, so we’ll try to get better and try to be a good team.”