GREAT BEND — Hays High point guard Brooke Denning set the tone with flawless passing and ballhandling.

The Indians dictated the tempo with aggressive fullcourt defense while attacking the basket in a dominating 64-41 Western Athletic Conference basketball victory over Great Bend Tuesday.

The Indians (4-3, 1-1 WAC) showed excellent balanced keyed by Denning’s excellent passing to go with 12 points. The Indians placed Savannah Schneider (12) and Jaycee Dale (11) in double figures.

“Brooke is starting to get comfortable and finding her rhythm,” said Hays High coach Alex Hutchins. “Jaycee Dale dominated inside and owned the paint. Savannah (Schneider) is doing a good job finishing plays.”

Hays High led 18-6 after one quarter and 38-14 at halftime.

Seven Indians scored first-half points and they hit 10 free throws. The Indians effectively overpowered the shorter Panthers by drawing fouls to shoot 14 free throws.

The Indians converted several of the Panthers’ 16 turnovers into easy baskets and extra possessions.

“We were proud of the effort. The girls came out and executed,” said Hutchins. “We were one player away from having everyone score.” 

The Panthers (1-8, 0-2 WAC) gained a measure of momentum by outscoring the Indians 27-26 after halftime. The Panthers showed extra fight by battling the Indians even after halftime.

The Panthers seem to need to be behind by 20 points before they kick up their intensity and outplay their opponent. The undersized Panthers had no other way to play than all-out effort.

Super sparkplug Sydney Unruh keyed the second-half stretch with a trio of steaks and a score on Alyssa Herter’s assist. Candice Smith dished to Halle Latham for another nifty assist. Jenna Mauler highlighted a 12-point night with a nice driving layup. 

“We need to come out and play that way from the start, and it’s a different ballgame,” said Great Bend coach Carrie Minton. “At times, we show we’re capable. We play stretches where we put our game together.  But we also show our lack of playing experience at times.“

Hays High boys fall

By the time Hays High’s Tradgon McCrae got hot, it was too late.

McCrae scored 18 fourth-quarter points and the Indians scored 26 points in seven minutes to nearly rally from a 17-point deficit (58-41).

But the Panthers survived for a 76-67 Western Athletic Conference basketball victory.

Virtually every possession down the stretch worked through McCrae’s impressive drives to the basket and passing. Great Bend needed every point when McCrae ignited a 22-point second half in a 27-point night.

McCrae willed the Indians within 69-65.

Great Bend’s Peyton Duvall responded with a driving shot and Alex Schremmer sealed the victory with free throws. The Panthers gained extra shots with extra effort on loose balls. Hays High’s final rally ended when the Indians missed three consecutive 3-pointers down 72-67.

“We got beat by our rival. The basketball was up for grabs. Great Bend got 90 percent of the loose balls,” said Hays coach Rick Keltner. “I’m disappointed in our toughness. You’ve got to get a rebound and not let them knock it out of your hands.”

Braiden Meyers scored 11 points for Hays High (4-3, 1-1 WAC), which converted 8 of 30 shots from 3-point range.

The Indians extended the game with aggressive defense that created several turnovers. But every call didn’t go the Indians’ way.

“We act like we’re going to throw a temper tantrum,” Keltner said. “I can’t have guys acting like that. When we got pushed, we want to blame the officials rather than getting tougher. It was a frustrating loss. But they’ll bounce back. They’re used to playing Fornite and if they lose, they’re used to hitting reset.”

Great Bend’s Peyton Duvall scored 22 points and knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to ignite a hot shooting night for the Panthers. Great Bend sored 33 points more than their season average of 43 points per game.

“It goes back to defense too,” Keltner said. “We gave up 76 points to an arch-rival. It’s hard to feel good about that defense.”

The Panthers (2-7, 1-1 WAC ) were close to starting with a pair of home WAC wins, but dropped a last-second 39-38 game to Garden City last week.

The Panthers’ signature play had several players fly to the floor for a loose ball that went Great Bend’s way after a timeout.

Duvall and Dalton Miller (17 points) dug down and converted play-after-play to spark the Panthers. Duvall hit the outside shot and worked the boards, Miller attacked the basket and converted tough shots in traffic with no fear.

“We’ve been so close, but these guys have worked through tough times,” said Great Bend coach Tim Brooks. “We showed the ability to adapt tonight and that’s the mark of a great team.”

The Panthers answered with 22 free throws after a pair of misses cost them against Garden City.