For Liberal to really put the pressure on the Hays High boys down the stretch on Friday night, the Redskins were going to need the Indians to wilt at the foul line.
Instead, Hays High put on a free-throw shooting clinic, calmly draining shot after shot as Hays celebrated Indian Call with a 59-54 win at HHS Gym.
The Indians entered the fourth quarter with an eight-point lead before going 21 of 27 at the line in the final frame to keep Liberal at bay.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Hays High coach Rick Keltner said. “We’ve had some guys really struggle with (free throws) early, and they’ve really been shooting them a lot better. I think that’s a tribute to how hard they’ve worked and they’ve tried to get better.”
Every point was crucial for the Indians as Liberal put up a 29-point fourth quarter fueled by six 3-pointers. Brody Sumner scored 14 in the fourth quarter to lead the charge but the Redskins never got closer than five points.
Trey Adams converted a 3-point play to push Hays’ lead to eight with 4:47 left before the Indians started putting Liberal away at the line.
Seven different Indians went to the stripe in the fourth. Braiden Meyers and Dalyn Schwarz led the way, with each hitting 5 of 6 attempts.
“(Liberal) made some bombs. They really made some nice shots,” Keltner said. “We did a great job for three quarters defensively. In the fourth quarter, they made some big plays and we had a chance where we could have wilted, but we didn’t. We had kids make plays.”
Hays High (9-7, 4-2 Western Athletic Conference) took control early with a 17-5 first quarter that included two deep 3-pointers from senior Tradgon McCrae.
Hays maintained the 12-point lead heading into halftime and never relinquished the lead. The Indians finished 25 of 35 from the foul line.
McCrae led the Indians with 14 points. Dalyn Schwarz chipped in eight while Cade Swayne and Adams had seven apiece.
“I thought our big guys made some nice plays for us,” Keltner said.
Sumner scored a game-high 19 points while Jordan Mendoza added 13 for the Redskins (9-6, 1-3 WAC).
Hays High went 2-0 on the week after picking up a 47-39 win over Great Bend on Tuesday.
“I think the kids work hard on defense — that’s effort and attitude,” Keltner said. “Offensively we just want to keep getting better in our halfcourt game and I thought we made strides tonight. We got to keep getting better.”
Swayne was crowned Indian Call king while volleyball and soccer player Hannah McGuire was queen.
Liberal rolls past Hays High girls
It was the kind of start the Hays High girls simply couldn’t afford against one of the top teams in Class 6A.
Liberal completely shut down the Indians early, outscoring Hays 17-2 in the first quarter en route to a 55-34 win as the Redskins moved to 15-0 overall and 4-0 in WAC play.
“They were a buzzsaw and they threw some haymakers and unfortunately it took us a while to get our feet into the ground so we could punch back,” Hays High coach Alex Hutchins said.
After being stymied by the Redskins in the first frame, Hays High (11-5, 4-2 WAC) stopped the bleeding long enough to prevent Liberal from completely running away with it in the second quarter, but the Indians still trailed 28-10 at halftime.
Liberal broke away in the third period, though, as Hays High continued to struggle to find buckets, falling behind 45-19 after three quarters.
“We finally got a few stops but we just couldn’t get the scores,” Hutchins said. “We are a team that everything initiates with our defense; that was really the big issue. We want to force turnovers, but even when we’re not forcing turnovers we’ve got to be solid enough to get stops and get rebounds so we can get out and run. When you’re pulling the ball out of the net every time, it’s pretty hard to get out and run in transition.”
Savannah Schneider was the only Indian in double figures, scoring 17. Whitney Hay led a balanced attack for the Redskins with 13 while Machia Mullens and Katie Horyna each added 12.
Hutchins said the Indians won’t get discouraged by the lopsided loss to the Redskins, who are ranked No. 4 in Class 6A in the Best of Kansas Preps rankings.
“This was a little bit of a wakeup call, a little bit of a test to see where we are and what we need to do,” Hutchins said. “The hope moving forward is that we use this as motivation and an eye-opening experience to what we need to work on in practice."
The Hays High boys and girls will play at Abilene on Tuesday.