With things looking bleak late in Friday night’s matchup with Garden City, Hays High boys basketball coach Alex Hutchins was starting to prepare himself to console what figured to be a heartbroken group of Indians.
At that point, the Indians were down five and the Buffaloes were on the verge of dealing Hays a big blow to its Western Athletic Conference title hopes.
"There’s about a minute left in regulation and I’m starting to go, ‘Man, what am I going to say to these guys in the locker room after the game? They’re going to be so upset and this is going to be crushing, ’ " Hutchins said.
Thanks in large part to Jason Krannawitter, the postgame mood ended up being jubilation instead of devastation.
Krannawitter delivered the shot of the Indians’ season so far, hitting a buzzer-beating game-tying 3-pointer to send the game into overtime.
Hays then outscored the Buffaloes 10-1 in the extra session to celebrate Indian Call with a 59-50 victory at HHS Gym.
The night belonged to the junior guard Krannawitter, who happened to be celebrating a birthday.
Up three and inbounding under the Hays basket, Garden City turned the ball over on a travel with 6.6 seconds left to give the Indians life.
Hays inbounded to T.J. Nunnery, who found Krannawitter at the top of the key. Krannawitter used a pump fake to get a defender to fly by, then drained the 3 right before time expired.
"At first I was open, but the defender closed out, so I had to pump fake him and side-step him, and just shot it," Krannawitter said. "As soon as I let it go, I knew it had a chance to go in."
"There’s not a better birthday gift than hitting that right shot there," Hutchins said. "Just super proud of Jason."
Hutchins said the most impressive part of the shot was Krannawitter’s patience not to rush the attempt.
"There’s nothing that a coach can take credit for right there," Hutchins said. "That’s just a player going and making a play."
Krannawitter scored Hays’ first point in overtime on a free throw before Dalyn Schwarz made the only field goal of the extra session on a 3-point play. Garden City made a free throw to make it a three-point game, but the Indians ended the game on a 7-0 run, all on free throws.
Hays High went 8 of 9 from the stripe in OT, with Nunnery going 6 of 6.
"I knew our momentum was going to carry us in overtime," Krannawitter said.
Nunnery was instrumental in the comeback late in regulation. He twice cut the deficit down to three with layups in the final minute.
"T.J. was confident and aggressive," Hutchins said. "He drove and made plays for us and those were huge. We don’t have a chance if we don’t get those buckets. His free throws in overtime we’re even bigger."
The win helped keep the Indians in strong position to earn at least a share of the WAC title. Hays moved to 12-6 overall and 6-1 in conference play, staying tied with Great Bend at the top of the standings. The Indians will close out WAC play on Tuesday at home against Dodge City.
Nunnery led Hays High with 16 points, while Krannawitter and Schwarz added 11 points each.
The Indians led 28-20 at halftime but were nearly undone by a third quarter in which they were outscored 15-4.
"We kind of got out of what we wanted to do," Hutchins said. "We turned it over a lot. Really, that’s one of the first times this year we’ve seen someone double our posts, and we did not handle that very well. Thankful we got to learn that lesson in a win and not a loss."
The Buffaloes led 47-42 with 51 seconds left and held a 49-44 advantage after two free throws with 14 seconds left, but the Indians scored five points in the last eight seconds to force OT.
"That’s our players trusting each other, being confident and going and making plays," Hutchins said.
Garden City dropped to 9-10 overall and 2-5 in the WAC. Azavier Williams led the Buffaloes with 16 points while Tae Rosales added 10.
GARDEN CITY GIRLS 54, HAYS HIGH 38
After a solid first half, the Hays High girls couldn’t keep pace with the Buffaloes.
The Indians trailed by just two at halftime but Garden City seized control by outscoring Hays 16-5 in the third quarter. Garden City maintained a double-digit lead throughout the fourth.
Junior post player Keyhana Turner hurt the Indians inside, scoring a game-high 22 points. She was joined in double figures by Amaya Gallegos’ 13 points.
Early on, sophomore Aleyia Ruder scored the Indians first nine points to stake them to a 9-2 lead, but the Buffaloes closed the quarter on an 11-4 run.
Garden City took a 24-22 lead into halftime before holding the Indians to two made field goals in the third quarter to build a 13-point advantage.
Tasiah Nunnery led the Indians with 15 points while Ruder finished with 13.
Hays High dropped to 5-13 on the season and 1-6 in WAC play, while Garden City moved to 10-9 overall and 4-3 in conference play.