In a game that ultimately came down to free throws, the Hays High girls had the right player at the stripe when it mattered most on Tuesday night against Great Bend.
Clinging to a one-point lead, Great Bend missed two free throws with 3.5 seconds left and Hays High's Tasiah Nunnery was bumped into for a Panthers foul after Nunnery grabbed the rebound off the second miss.
The senior then calmly drained both free throws with 2.3 seconds left to give the Indians a 37-36 win.
"Tasiah's our best free-throw shooter, so to have her at the line, I think our team felt confident she was going to put them in, and that's what happened," Hays High coach Kyle Porter said.
Nunnery's free throws marked the Indians' only lead of the second half. They trailed by as much as nine in the third quarter but fought back to tie it on an Aleyia Ruder jumper with 1:22 left in the game. Great Bend regained the lead on a pair of free throws with just under a minute remaining.
With the Indians down by two, Hays High's Isabel Robben was fouled with 8.2 seconds left, making the first and missing the second. Nunnery grabbed the rebound and missed a putback inside, but Robben grabbed another offensive board and was fouled. She missed both free throws but Great Bend's missed foul shots left the door open before Nunnery sank her two foul shots.
Hays High snapped a five-game skid to move to 2-5 overall and 1-1 in WAC play. Great Bend, which was unable to get a shot off after Nunnery's free throws, dropped to 2-7 and 0-2 in the WAC.
"This was a game where we didn't play very well. I felt like there was a lid on the basket the entire night," Porter said. "I felt like it was an uphill battle. But I'm really proud of our kids for continuing to fight through adversity, playing the next play. It was an ugly game on our part, but sometimes you got to win ugly and sometimes you got to find a way to win games, and we did that tonight."
Ruder led the Indians with 16 points, scoring eight in the fourth quarter.
"The way they were playing defense, they were really sagging off of her and left her open at the free-throw line," Porter said. "She was confident and made some big shots for us late in the game."
The Indians nearly pitched a shutout in the first quarter before Great Bend hit a 3-pointer with five seconds left in the frame. The Panthers proceeded to hit five 3s in the second quarter to take a 23-14 lead into the break, but Hays held the Panthers without a 3 after halftime.
"I thought we did a better job in the second half of contesting shots on the outside," Porter said.
Great Bend went without a field goal in the fourth quarter. The Panthers were 5 of 11 from the foul line in the final frame.
Porter credited his team's effort for scratching out a win.
"I don't ever question this team's effort at all," Porter said. "Consistent effort is going to keep us in games. Tasiah did a great job tonight being a senior leader, leading with that kind of effort. She made a number of great plays and really helped our team out."
The Indians will continue WAC play on Friday at Garden City.
"To stay positive and be resilient through adversity, I think the next time we're in close games like this, we can look back and have some confidence that we can find a way to get it done," Porter said. "I think it gives us a little energy and gives us some positive momentum moving forward."