Hays High boys clinch share of WAC title

By Randy Gonzales
Special to Hays Daily News

The Hays High boys basketball team claimed a share of the Western Athletic Conference title Friday night with a 76-44 win at Garden City. After sharing the crown last season, the Indians can clinch the outright championship on Tuesday at Dodge City. The Indians are then home against rival Great Bend to finish the regular season.

“All we’re thinking about at this point is looking forward,” Hays High coach Alex Hutchins said. “Proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, but we’ve got two more games left in conference. I don’t know if we’ll be satisfied unless we focus and take care of business.”

HHS, ranked No. 1 in Class 5A, moved to 18-0 overall and 6-0 in league play on the strength of a hot shooting night from beyond the arc. The Indians made 12 of 21 3-pointers (57%). Senior guard TJ Nunnery swished three from long range on his way to 16 points. Junior forward Jace Linenberger scored a game-high 17 and senior forward Dalyn Schwarz added 10.

“Anytime we hit outside shots like that, it helps Dalyn and Jace,” Hutchins said. “It helps our guards even more, giving opportunities to drive and create.”

Hays High led 18-10 after the first quarter and 32-22 at the break, then blitzed Garden City in the third quarter, outscoring the Buffaloes, 20-9.

“Our shots went down from outside,” Hutchins said of the third period. “We felt like we were getting good shots the whole game, they just weren’t all falling early.”

Nunnery led the way early, scoring nine first-quarter points, including a fastbreak dunk.

“He’s strung together quite a few good games in a row now,” Hutchins said.

Junior guard Tae Rosales connected on four 3-pointers to score a team-high 14 points for Garden City (9-6, 3-4).

Sharing the WAC is nice, but not enough for the Indians. They want the title all to themselves.

“That would be significant, definitely something we’re after,” Hutchins said. “Last year, we did split it.”

Garden City girls 39, Hays High 33

Hays High coach Len Melvin thinks his team has a good chance to win if the Indians can get to 40 points. They just have trouble getting there.

After another good first half to keep HHS in the game, the Indians again struggled on offense in the second half on Friday, scoring just 13 points.

“This has been repetitive all year,” Melvin said. “We’ve had a good first half and we just can’t figure out how to score in the second half.”

Hays High (6-12, 1-5) led 10-9 after the first quarter and 20-19 at intermission. The Indians scored six points in the third but the defense held the Buffs to eight, who took a 27-26 lead going into the final eight minutes.

Garden City (11-4, 5-2), playing without its injured starting point guard, led 33-29 before junior Caroline Robben’s basket with 56 seconds left made it a one-possession game. The Indians fouled at the other end, and the Buffs missed the front end of the bonus but got the rebound. HHS had to foul again and Garden City made both at the line, then four more in the final seconds. Sophomore Aileen Becerril led the Buffs with 14 points and senior Keyhana Turner added 11.

“We had an opportunity to take advantage of a missed free throw, go down and take the lead or tie it, but we lost the rebound,” Melvin said. “We had to foul again, and the rest is history.”

Hays High is 4-3 on the season when the Indians score 40 points. Melvin said the Indians got good looks at the basket Friday, but just could not make the shots. Junior Jersey Johnson led the team with nine points.

“We’re getting really good shots,” Melvin said. ”Any coach would be happy with the shots we’re getting, but we’re not making those shots.”

Melvin said his players need to work on their shooting in the offseason.

“You don’t fix that stuff during the season,” Melvin said. “We told the girls that if this hurts bad enough they’re going to have to become gym rats. They’re going to have to do things to make themselves better so those shots will fall.”