Tuesday’s rivalry game with Great Bend didn’t lend itself to the up-tempo style of play the Hays High boys prefer, but the Indians found a way to adapt nevertheless. 

Hays used solid defense and some timely fourth-quarter buckets to grind out a 47-39 win over the Panthers at HHS Gym. 

“It’s just the nature of the game at any level,” Hays High coach Rick Keltner said. “You’ve got to be able to play more than one style. 

“As we get into league and postseason stuff,” Keltner added, “I wish everybody would run and gun a little bit. But in reality, you run when you can. You’ve got to get good shots, good possessions. I thought tonight we started a little bit to rush some passes but as the game progressed, we had some really nice possessions.”

Keltner was pleased with the energy the Indians expended on the defensive end to keep the Panthers in check. 

“The kids worked hard. They’re good kids and they're trying really hard to do what we ask them to do,” Keltner said. “Defense is hard work; there’s no way around it. We held a team to under 40 points — a rival team.”

Buoyed by an 11-0 run in the second quarter, the Indians took a 22-17 lead into halftime and maintained the lead in the second half, though the Panthers came within two points in the third quarter. 

Hays (8-7, 3-2 WAC) took a 33-27 lead into the fourth quarter and stayed in control, thanks in part to big buckets from post players Cade Swayne and Dalyn Schwarz.

“I thought our big guys did a really good job, not only defensively but offensively,” Keltner said. 

The Panthers (5-11, 2-3 WAC) were within six with under a minute left but couldn't get closer. 

Hays High was led by senior Tradgon McCrae's 15 points while sophomore T.J. Nunnery added 10. Alex Schremmer paced Great Bend with 10. 

“It was a dogfight,” Keltner said. “It was a rival game and both teams were playing their tails offs. A lot of respect for (Great Bend) coach Tim Brooks. He does a great job with them and they’re always tough.”

Hays High girls roll  

After using a Brooke Denning buzzer-beater to take down Garden City on Saturday, the Hays High girls took the drama out of it early against Great Bend. 

The Indians led by 21 at halftime and continued to cruise, moving to 11-4 overall and 4-1 in WAC play. 

Several reserves saw extended playing time in the second half as Hays pulled away. 

“We’ve got a lot of girls on this team that are working hard in practice and have been putting a lot of work in the eight months or so that I’ve been here,” Hays High coach Alex Hutchins said. “It’s fun to get a chance to reward them and let them show some of their stuff in front of the crowd." 

Savannah Schneider led the Indians with 16 points while Jaycee Dale added 13 and Denning put up 11. 

“I was proud of the way some of the girls handled the junk defense,” Hutchins said. “They were sticking a body on Savannah and Brooke and Tasiah (Nunnery), and that can be frustrating. I thought they did a really good job of being patient and letting their teammates go to work. It was a solid game all around.”

Hutchins said it was encouraging to see the Indians come out and take control after playing three games last week. 

“Proud of the way the girls handled the game," he said. “Proud of the way we kind of bounced back with some energy. The three games last week, I think, took a toll on us mentally and physically, so it was good to kind of get back and get right.”

Hays High will play host to Liberal on Friday. The Liberal girls are unbeaten and ranked No. 4 in Class 6A in the Best of Kansas Preps rankings.