Hays High boys win WAC outright
Coach Alex Hutchins said there was no special ceremony to put up last season’s conference championship sign in the Hays High gym. He just walked in one day over the summer, and there it was.
The Indians might need to work on their celebrations, and have another chance after clinching the outright Western Athletic Conference championship with Tuesday night’s 61-49 victory at Dodge City. Hays High (19-0 overall, 7-0 WAC) had already clinched a share of the title, and the Indian boys can complete an undefeated regular season with a home win Friday over rival Great Bend.
“It feels good to accomplish that,” Hutchins said. “We were proud last year to even just split it, but it feels really good to win it outright this year. We would like to finish it off on Friday, be undefeated.”
The Indians, ranked No. 1 in Class 5A, struggled to beat the Red Demons in Hays. Dodge City’s 3-point shooting can be the equalizer, but HHS countered with big games from its big men on Tuesday. Junior Jace Linenberger scored a game-high 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and senior Dalyn Schwarz added 12 points and 10 rebounds.
“They are big, but they are not just big bodies,” Hutchins said of his 6-foot-6 forwards. “They’re skilled, they’re basketball players.”
Hays High led 14-6 late in the first quarter when Dodge Cty (10-8, 4-3) went on a 13-1 run to take a 19-15 lead. The Indians responded with a 13-6 run to end the first half and take a 28-25 lead into halftime.
Junior guard Carson Kieffer, who finished with 14 points, hit the Indians’ lone 3-pointer of the game in the third period for a 41-30 lead. The Indians grabbed a 48-35 lead before Dodge City senior guard Matt Friess, who finished with 17 points, got a bucket to get the Red Demons within 11 entering the fourth. HHS led by as many as 15 points before Dodge City got as close as 55-49. Hays High then canned 6-of-9 free throws in the final two minutes.
After Friday’s regular-season finale against Great Bend, the Indians will play host to the Panthers again next week in the postseason.
“It’ll be a little unique because they will be coming back five days later for sub-state,” Hutchins said. “It’s a big rivalry game, it’s Senior Night, it’s an opportunity to wrap an undefeated season in WAC play.”
Dodge City girls 42, Hays High 24
Dodge City, ranked No. 4 in Class 6A, led by just three points at halftime, but Hays High’s scoring woes allowed the Red Demons to pull away in the second half.
“I was really proud of our girls,” Hays High coach Len Melvin said. “We may have surprised them a little bit, but our girls sure played hard.”
At halftime, Dodge City (17-1 overall, 7-0 WAC) led 15-12. The Red Demons came into the game averaging 57 points.
“I thought the first half was as good of defense as we’ve played all year, the second quarter, for sure,” Melvin said. “Our girls were just hustling and really wanting to do the right thing.”
After being held to four points in the second quarter, Dodge City went on a 10-1 run to start the second half before a traditional three-point play by sophomore guard Carly Lang got Hays High (6-13, 1-6) under a double-digit deficit to start the fourth at 25-16. The Red Demons widened the lead down the stretch, outscoring the Indians 10-3 to close the game.
“It was hard; obviously, Dodge plays really good defense, too,” Melvin said. “Again, I thought we got some pretty good shots. That’s as talented a team we’ll see; you just got to be able to make shots.”
Lang led Hays High with eight points and junior guard Amaya Perez scored a game-high nine points for Dodge City.
Hays High closes out the regular season at home Friday against rival Great Bend.
“There’s going to be a lot of emotion around the game, being Senior Night, obviously a rival,” Mel said. “They’re certainly going to want revenge; we beat them at their place. We’re fully capable of beating them if we play well, but they’re going to be a load.”