Hays High boys cap perfect regular season
An undefeated regular season was never the top goal for the Hays High boys basketball team, but that doesn't mean the Indians won't appreciate the significance of the feat.
Hays will enter sub-state unblemished, moving to 20-0 after taking a 50-32 win over Great Bend in the regular-season finale on senior night Friday at Hays High.
"We're happy about (the undefeated regular season), but we've got a lot left and a lot more to work on," Hays senior forward Dalyn Schwarz said.
The Indians ran the table despite having a target on their back with a No. 1-ranking in Class 5A for most of the season.
"I think we've handled it well for the most part," Hays coach Alex Hutchins said. "I think the biggest thing that I'm proud of with this group is just how they've remained unselfish and they've remained coachable.
"Any time you win a lot of games, you get some recognition and notoriety, and egos tend to follow. Sometimes that can sidetrack some teams and derail some things. For the most part I think our guys have stayed humble and they've stayed together. It's been a fun group to coach."
Despite missing six players because of COVID-19 quarantine and injuries, Great Bend (4-14) put forth a valiant effort against the Indians. The Panthers jumped out to a 13-5 lead and were within four points of the Indians at the break.
Hays scored just seven points in the third quarter but held the Panthers to just two points in the frame to take a 32-23 lead. The Indians then broke away with an 18-point fourth quarter.
"We kind of struggled against the zone there early, just to get settled in," Schwarz said. "But we valued every possession down the stretch and got what we wanted eventually.
"I think our guards started penetrating more, made it easier for the inside passes and kickouts for threes and stuff."
Jace Linenberger paced the Indians with 15 while Schwarz and T.J. Nunnery added 11 and 10, respectively.
"I thought we were solid on both ends for the most part; we just did not shoot the ball very well tonight, so it's really hard to stretch any sort of lead when you shoot the ball like we did tonight," Hutchins said. "Not displeased or anything. Proud of our defensive effort."
The Indians honored their three senior starters in Schwarz, Nunnery and Jason Krannawitter.
"I'm really proud of those three guys," Hutchins said. "They've bought into what we were selling them from the start and they've worked really hard in the offseason and during the season.
"They're guys that I'm thankful that I've coached, just because I like them; they're enjoyable kids, kids that I get along with. And we've had a lot of fun together. I'm thankful for what we've accomplished, but we're also going to do everything we can to make it last as long as we can."
Hays will turn around and face the Panthers again at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the first round of sub-state at Hays High.
Great Bend girls 46, Hays High 40
Great Bend forced Hays into turnovers at costly moments, which led to some of the game’s biggest buckets for the Panthers.
After Hays led by two early in the fourth quarter, steals and points in transition helped fuel an 11-2 run that gave the Panthers a seven-point lead with just under three minutes left.
The Indians made a final push, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to make it a one-point game with two minutes remaining, but Great Bend got enough stops and made enough free throws to hold on for the six-point win.
"The turnovers were huge, not just down the stretch but the entire game," Hays High coach Len Melvin said. "I thought we just shot ourselves in the foot. Not only did we throw the ball away, but then we didn't get back and they were getting easy layups in transition. ... When you combine turning it over a bunch and not making shots, it's usually a bad recipe."
After a Morgan Engel 3, the score was deadlocked at 28 heading into the fourth. The Indians (6-14) grabbed a short-lived lead on a bucket from Re Green, but Great Bend answered with a basket from Sadie Spray, and Taryn Warren hit a 3-pointer to break a 30-30 tie and give the Panthers the lead for good.
Carly Lang’s 3-pointer with just over two minutes left brought Hays within one, but Emilee Hall’s only bucket of the game pushed the Great Bend lead back to three. Sydney Unruh then hit one of two free throws after creating a steal, putting Great Bend up four.
Down three, the Indians had a good look to tie it with about 30 seconds left but Ashlynn Flax’s 3-pointer bounced away and Great Bend took possession after forcing a tie-up. The Panthers hit three more free throws over the last 22 seconds to seal it.
Great Bend (7-11, 1-7 WAC) was led by Unruh’s 15, while Spray and Warren had eight each. Green, Lang and Morgan Engel each had nine to lead Hays.
Melvin said he wanted desperately to see his three seniors — Green, Maia Lummus and Ginny Ke — get a win on senior night. He praised their perseverance after playing for four different coaches in four years.
"Those girls, what they've endured in four years, you wouldn't want any athlete to go through that, to have to go through four different coaches in four years," Melvin said. "I'm beyond proud of those three girls. They're just tremendous young people, and I know they're going to be successful in life."
The Indians (6-14, 1-7) will play at Salina Central at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the first round of sub-state.