Great Bend’s Alex Schremmer was a one-man wrecking crew on Tuesday night at Hays High, but several clutch plays from the Indians helped Hays withstand the damage and notch a 64-62 rivalry win.
Schremmer was nearly unstoppable for most of the night, finishing with 38 points and seven 3-pointers. He staked the Panthers to a four-point lead with 3:30 left before the Indians answered with a 7-0 run, including two big buckets inside by senior forward Dylan Ruder.
“That was the game right there,” Hays High coach Alex Hutchins said of the Indians’ response. “After they went on that run, I thought it looked like a bunch of seniors making plays, a bunch of grizzled vets that have been on the court and out on the football field and out on the baseball diamond together.
“In the huddle, we talked about, ‘Are you tough enough to snatch this back? Are you tough enough to finish this game doing what we need to do?' And the boys responded.”
The Indians then overtook the Panthers in the final minute thanks to big buckets by Jason Krannawitter and Ruder.
Krannawitter hit a step-back 3-pointer to put the Indians up three with 52 seconds left, and Ruder restored the 3-point lead on a putback off a missed free throw with about 30 seconds left.
“I got a text from my dad before the game telling me, ‘Make sure you crash those boards,’ ” Ruder said. “That’s what I went out to do tonight.”
In the waning moments, Schremmer put up a 3 that was contested by T.J. Nunnery. Nunnery was called for a foul after the shot, putting Schremmer at the line for a one-and-one with 0.7 seconds left.
Schremmer, who recently committed to Fort Hays State for football, made the first free throw to make it a two-point game, then intentionally missed the second attempt, but did not draw iron, allowing the Indians to inbound the ball and run out the clock.
"I think our guards got a taste of what it's like to be in the NBA and try to guard James Harden, when someone's shooting like (Schemmer was)," Hutchins said. "You've got to crowd and take their space, and at the same time if you get too close, you're going to get rung up and give them free throws. I didn't think T.J. fouled him on the shot, but I did think the foul was called on the shot, so I had a brief heart attack on the sideline there."
The Indians moved to 5-2 overall and 2-0 in Western Athletic Conference play while Great Bend dropped to 5-4 overall and 1-1 in WAC play.
Nunnery led the Indians with 18 points while Ruder added 13 and Jace Linenberger 10.
Ruder scored 11 of the Indians' 17 fourth-quarter points.
"Dylan has grown every week of the season," Hutchins said. "We've been impressed with him in practice, we've been impressed with him during games."
Ruder, a 6-foot-10 senior, said he's put an emphasis on being able to finish inside against contact.
"I take a lot of pride in that," Ruder said. "Last year, I was tall, but I don't think I was very physical on the inside. So I took a lot of time in the offseason to go into the weight room and get stronger — that way I can be an interior presence for the rest of the season."
Hays High led 35-29 at halftime and maintained the lead until Schremmer's five quick points to put the Panthers in front midway through the fourth.
Schremmer's seventh 3-pointer knotted the game up at 59 with 1:23 left before Krannawitter came through with arguably the biggest shot of the night, knocking in the contested trey that gave the Indians the lead for good.
“In the huddle, we talked about spreading the defense out and attacking the basket, ‘Let's finish this game with a layup or a free throw.’ And we ended up with a step-back 3,” Hutchins said with a chuckle. “It was one of those where it’s ‘No! No! No!’ And then, ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!' ”
Ruder said the rivalry win was a big confidence booster for the Indians, who will play at Garden City on Friday.
“To be able to develop that chemistry in those clutch situations is huge for this team moving forward,” Ruder said.