After quickly turning Thursday’s season opener against Wichita-Life Prep into a blowout, it could have been easy for the Hays High boys to lose a bit of focus and start deviating from the game plan.
But HHS coach Alex Hutchins felt the Indians remained engaged and disciplined during a 92-42 win over the Fire in the first round of the Gerald Mitchell Hays City Shootout at Hays High.
“We were pleased that the boys stuck true to the principles and stayed focused on the things we wanted to do,” Hutchins said. “We didn’t run a lot of stuff; we played pretty basic. We told them we wanted them to perfect the basics and do the things that we do simply, and do them right. I thought the boys did a good job of not really paying attention to the scoreboard and locking in and doing what was asked.”
The Indians pounded it inside early as they built a 29-4 lead by the end of the first quarter. HHS led 53-20 at halftime and 85-39 at the end of the third quarter. The fourth quarter was played under a running clock.
“We’re going to have a height advantage most nights, so that has been an emphasis in practice leading up to this; we really harped on the guards to get the ball to the post,” Hutchins said. “Obviously the height advantage tonight was probably a little bit more than it will be on a normal night. Life Prep had two kids that we were expecting to play that didn’t, so that changed things pretty dramatically.”
Senior forward Dylan Ruder led the Indians with 18 points. He was joined in double figures by sophomore guard Carson Kieffer (14 points), junior forward Trey Adams (11), sophomore Jace Linenberger (10) and senior Brock Lummus (10).
Hutchins, who was making his debut coaching the Hays High boys after guiding the HHS girls team last year, credited his bench for keeping the energy level high.
“Those guys coming (off the bench), there’s not a lot of drop-off,” Hutchins said. “There was a comment made on the bench between the coaching staff, ‘Man, I feel bad about the way the score’s looking, but at the same time, it’s fun to see these guys go out here and perform like we see them in practice every day.' ”
Hays High will meet Olathe West in the semifinals at 8:15 p.m. Friday at Hays High. The Owls beat TMP-Marian 72-61.
“The level of intensity is going to have to be a lot higher,” Hutchins said. “The focus and the attention to detail is going to have to be better. One thing that does help us a little bit is the style of basketball is relatively similar. Our bigs spent a lot of time tonight guarding on the perimeter, and they’re going to do that again (Friday night), but albeit against people that are going to be more aggressive, more physical. We’ll strap up and get ready to go.”
A focus for the Indians will be trying to contain Olathe West guard Cougar Downing, who scored 31 points against TMP.
“The Downing kid is incredible,” Hutchins said. “They go as he goes. He’s a great shooter, great scorer, but at the same time, he gets so many other people shots. It’s a credit to the players around him, too; they’re great cutters, good at being ready and finishing when they get the chances. (Downing) will be the head of the snake we have to focus on, but they have other kids around him that make plays to, so we're going to have to be ready to go. It’s going to be a fun game and a tough task.”
On the other side of the bracket, Manhattan cruised to a 71-47 win over Great Bend and Lawrence Free state beat Millwood (Okla.) 51-35.