Before Wednesday's Class 5A sub-state opener, Hays High girls basketball coach Alex Hutchins stressed the importance of using team defense to contain Wichita Kapaun Mt. Carmel and 6-foot-4 center Ella Anciaux.
Fortunately for the Indians, working as a collective unit has been never been an issue this season.
Hays held the Crusaders to just 13 points in the first half and stayed in control in the second half to notch a 62-48 win at home and move on to the sub-state final.
The Indians (14-7) will play at Goddard (19-2) at 7 p.m. on Friday with a trip to the state tournament on the line.
"With our group, everything we do offensively and defensively is going to be team oriented," Hutchins said. "We don't have any one person who is going to take over the game on either side of the ball, but at the same time, that's kind of the magic of this group."
Everyone on the floor seemingly took turns in the post trying to make life difficult on Anciaux, who finished with 18 points, though seven of her points came in the fourth quarter with Hays already up comfortably.
"It's going to take more than one girl to slow down someone who's 6-4, because we're going to have to have someone fronting her and we're going to have to have someone right behind her," Hutchins said. "Really, really pleased with the team defense."
The Indians took control with a 13-0 run in the second quarter to open up a 15-point lead. They led 28-13 at halftime and never allowed the Crusaders to get back within striking distance in the second half.
Senior Savannah Schneider led a balanced attack with 13 points while Tasiah Nunnery added 11.
Hays scored half its points from the line, going 31 of 47 from the stripe.
"I thought tonight was probably the best night of the year as far as attacking and putting pressure on the defense," Hutchins said. "Early in the game, in the first quarter and maybe a little bit in the second quarter, we might have settled for some outside shots a little too early ... but I thought the girls did a great job of recognizing how the officials were calling things, recognizing that if we drove and drew contact that we were going to get to the line. They kept going to the well, they kept taking advantage."
After a senior night loss to Dodge City to close the regular season, Hutchins said Wednesday's game was a more fitting way to recognize the Indians' four-player senior class — Schneider, Kallie Leiker, Jaycee Dale and Mattie Hutchison.
"All four girls played their hearts out all year and I'm excited to see what they bring on Friday," Hutchins said. "They've been a fun group to coach and I want it to keep going."
The game also offered a glimpse of the future with freshmen Taleia McCrae and Aleyia Ruder playing significant minutes off the bench.
"We talked about how we wanted a re-do of senior night and how big this night was for the seniors, but at the same time, I think it was awesome for our young girls and also an awesome opportunity kind of for the entire program to show the community that the cupboard isn't bare," Hutchins said. "We lose a group that's very, very experienced and has had a lot of success, especially statistically with all the games that they've played, but we've got some some young girls that are hungry and chomping at the bit and they've worked hard. It was kind of fun to see them shine a little bit on this stage too."
Goodard moved on with a 50-25 win over Salina South on Wednesday to set up the matchup the Indians.
"I've heard that they're one of the best defensive teams in the state," Hutchins said. "We have film, but we haven't watched any of yet; we wanted to give our full focus to Kapaun."