Sometimes the game can be as simple as the shots falling — or not.
For the Hays High School boys’ basketball team, the latter was the case Friday night in the regular season finale against Abilene at the HHS gym.
Often, it seemed the Indians had three, maybe even four chances near the basket not fall. Combined with a 3 of 11 effort at the free throw line, the shooting woes were too much in a 51-43 loss to the Cowboys, the No. 5 ranked team in Class 4A.
“They’re a good team — they won their league and are ranked — and we battled them toe-to-toe,” said Hays High coach Rick Keltner. “It comes down to making shots.”
While trying to find an answer for the shooting woes, Keltner didn’t have much explanation, especially for a lackluster free throw effort for a team normally solid at the foul line. That included an 11-for-11 game earlier this season.
“(Abilene’s) 3-point shooters made shots, and we missed layups,” Keltner said. “We had multiple attempts at layups and didn’t score. We just have to try and keep getting (those shots).”
It was the second loss to Abilene this season by a near identical score. The Indians lost 53-49 on Feb. 12.
After a slow start Friday, the Indians led 11-6 after a 6-0 run to end the first quarter, and after TJ Nunnery’s second 3-pointer of the half held a 21-15 lead. But, Hays then went scoreless over the final 2 minutes of the half, while Abilene put up eight to take a two-point halftime lead.
The Indians did grab a brief lead in the third quarter, but a 7-0 run by the Cowboys gave the visitors the lead for good.
Hays High went cold from that point, especially at the foul line. The Indians had one series where they had a chance at a layup, got a steal and a technical foul on Abilene, but only came away with one point in the sequence.
“We’ve been shooting well. You really can’t talk about it too much,” Keltner said. “Don’t want to think about it too much. Bottom line is, we have to try and get better.”
Abilene held a nine-point lead early in the fourth, and the Indians never got any closer than within four. The Cowboys made seven fourth-quarter free throws to seal the win, moving to 17-3 as they head to the postseason. Hays Hight dropped to 9-11 with its fourth straight setback.
Nunnery led the Indians with 15 points with no other player in double digits. Hays High played without senior Cade Swayne, who was participating at state KMEA. Swayne, Braiden Meyers and Tradgon McCrae were honored prior to the start of the contest, playing their final game at the HHS gym.
The Indians will travel to Salina Central (15-5) for the Class 5A West sub-state opener. That game is slated for 7 p.m. Thursday. The Indians lost 52-39 to the Mustangs in Hays in January.
“We just have to try and weather the early storm in their gym. hang around and stay close and have somebody make some shots,” Keltner said.
Abilene girls 52, Hays High 40
Abilene, the No. 4 ranked team in Class 4A, completed a two-game sweep of the Hays High girls, hitting free throws late to make a tight game a little more lopsided as the Cowgirls moved to 17-2.
The two teams exchanged one-possession leads for much of the first quarter, and were nip, tuck for most of the second, though Hays High never led.
Abilene (18-2), which was led by 25 points for Hannah Willey and 20 for Sydney Burton, pushed its lead to 13 points in the third quarter, before Hays High turned on some full court pressure and got within four.
The Indians had two opportunities to make it closer, but came away empty with a pair of turnovers. In the final minute, Abilene made eight free throws to extend the lead.
Jaycee Dale led Hays High (13-7) with 14 points, while Brooke Denning added 10.
Hays High honored seniors Dale, Savannah Schneider and Mattie Hutchison between games Friday.
However, Hays High will have at least one more home game, playing host to Kapaun Mt Carmel (10-10) at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Class 5A west sub-state. With a win, the Indians will play either at Goddard (18-1), or play host to Salina South (6-13) or Great Bend (1-19) for a sub-state championship.