Hays High girls close Orange & Black Classic with loss to Life Prep

Special to Hays Daily News

The Hays High girls basketball team overcame a slow start to take a fourth-quarter lead over Wichita-Life Prep Academy on Saturday at the 36th annual Orange & Black Classic in Colby. However, Life Prep went on a late run to take the lead and hold off the Indians 40-31 in the fourth-place game at the Community Building.

“When we took the lead they had eight fouls and we had three,” Hays High coach Len Melvin said. “We thought we had an opportunity to finish the game at the free-throw line. Turned out the other way.

“We made a few offensive mistakes and turnovers, had to start fouling,” he added. “It was just an unfortunate last couple minutes of the ball game. It came down to us taking care of the ball again. We just didn’t do a very good job of that.”

Hays High (3-8), which had lost 46-30 to Life Prep in the season-opening Gerald Mitchell Hays City Shoot-Out, was held scoreless after the first quarter, trailing 8-0.

“We didn’t have a whole lot of confidence,” Melvin said. “We missed a few shots early. We let their pressure get to us a little bit. I was really proud that we battled back.”

The Indians kept even with the Fire in the second period to trail 16-8 at intermission.

HHS got as close as four points in the third quarter and trailed 23-18 entering the fourth. The Indians took their only lead of the game at 27-25 on two free throws from junior Jersey Johnson midway through the period. After the Fire regained the lead the Indians made it 29-29 after two foul shots from sophomore  Morgan Engel with 3:18 remaining.

The Fire (8-3) then outscored Hays High 11-2 down the stretch. Junior forward Ann Mary Zacariah scored six of her 12 points in that span, and sophomore guard Sofia Lopez netted four of her game-high 14 points to close it out.

“The girls are working so hard,” Melvin said. “We tell them good things will happen. They’re waiting to win a couple games in a row, get some confidence.”

Johnson led Hays High with nine points. The Indians return to action Tuesday, at home against Pratt.

“I think the girls can pull some positives from this,” Mevin said. “I think they will be excited to play right away, fix some of the mistakes we made.”