For five weeks, the Great Bend basketball teams played solely on the road. Tuesday night, the Panthers finally played on the friendly confines of a home court. That might have been enough to lift Great Bend past arch-rival Hays. The Panther boys handed the Indians their first loss of the year in a 48-40 battle. The Lady Panthers won their game 54-40.
Great Bend boys 48, Hays 40
Usually the scorebook is a good place to find a deciding factor in a basketball game. That was not necessarily the case on Tuesday. Only two Panthers reached double-figures in scoring. One of those players, senior Ethan Henderson, also grabbed 22 rebounds in the game despite giving up several inches to the Hays post players.
“He just got in there and worked hard,” said Panther Coach Chris Battin. “He just found himself in the right position and was strong inside. Even when he missed he went up strong and grabbed it and did a tremendous job for us tonight.”
Great Bend had a rebound advantage all night, holding the Indians to just two rebounds in the second quarter, and winning the board battle 40-27 on the night.
“David Cardinal is the only guy who laid a body on (Henderson) all night,” Hays Coach Rick Keltner said. “Certainly, early in the game I had some guys saying, ‘They were over my back.’ That is what every guy in the world who is getting his butt kicked says.”
The Panthers (2-5 overall, 1-1 WAC) rarely trailed in the game but had their backs against the wall late. Hays (7-1, 1-1) cut a 10-point third quarter lead to 29-26 with a quarter to play. Great Bend senior Matt Marshall swished a floater, and junior Bryce Beck hit a three to bump the advantage back to 34-26.
Hays big-man Brady Werth took over late in the fourth quarter. The six-foot-six sophomore scored 10 of his game-high 17 points in the final 5:27. His putback with four minutes to play cut the lead to 34-32, then Jordan Windholz added an up-and-under shot to tie the score at 34.
The teams remained close, knotting the score at 40 with 1:30 to play. From there, it was all Great Bend. The Panthers shot just 52 percent from the free throw line all night, but hit 8-of-11 tries from the charity stripe in the final 1:42 to secure the win.
Both offenses struggled to score in the first quarter, finishing with just six points apiece after eight minutes of play. As Great Bend struggled to an 0-for-6 start from the floor in the second quarter, Hays built an 11-7 lead. Marshall rattled off five points and the Indians held their final lead of the night at 13-12. The Panthers closed the first half with a 15-4 run to lead 22-15 at the break.
“We got out-scrapped several times on loose balls,” Keltner said. “You’ve got to expect that on the road, playing at your arch-rival, and you’re undefeated. We’re going to get their best shot.”
Great Bend stayed in a zone all night, forcing Hays to shoot the long ball. The Indians never found the answer, going 3-for-26 behind the arc in the game.
“They were kind of daring us to shoot them,” Keltner said. “They stayed in the zone all night.”
“I feel like tonight we were more energetic in our zone so we just stuck with it,” said Battin. “Sometimes it simplifies your role, and that’s kind of the path we took.”
Henderson and Marshall each scored 12 points to lead the Panthers. Beck finished with eight points. Windholz finished with six points for the Indians, and Derek Bixenman scored four points.
Battin said Tuesday’s win carried extra importance because of the team’s struggles so far in the season.
“This is a big win for us because we haven’t felt like we’ve played well,” he said. “Tonight, we feel like we played really well, and we played with the intensity to get those victories.”
Great Bend girls 54, Hays 40
Tuesday’s WAC-battle between two rivals came down to pace. In the end, the Lady Panthers decided the pace of the game, and that resulted in a 54-40 win. Great Bend (4-3 overall, 1-1 WAC) forced several turnovers early on to open the game with a 9-0 lead.
“We have to force the tempo of the game because we have the athletes to run; forcing the tempo, getting the ball and moving up-and-down the floor, and if we can get our hands on a few passes and get a few turnovers to start the game, that makes things a little easier for us,” said Lady Panther Coach Carrie Minton.
“We wanted to not play fast with them, and we continued to try and play fast with them,” said Hays Coach Kirk Maska. “They were the better team tonight.”
Great Bend scored 15 points in less than four minutes and went on to lead 17-6 after one quarter. Hays (4-4, 1-1) switched to a zone that halted the Panther offense.
“I’m sure they weren’t ready for it,” Maska said. “We haven’t played a zone during my four years here. I think it threw them for a little bit of a loop.”
The defensive switch forced Great Bend to fire shots from the outside, making just 1-of-6 three-pointers as the only shots from the floor to open the second quarter. Meanwhile, Lady Indian senior Katelyn Schumacher found her place just outside the lane, scoring nine points in the second frame to get Hays back within two at 24-22 by halftime.
Great Bend again came out shooting the long ball to open the third quarter. Kylee Spray swished a triple just 20 seconds into the second half. Five points from Tarynn Stueder put the Panthers ahead 32-24. Eventually, Great Bend cooled off, finishing the third quarter with just 2-of-8 makes from three-point land. Hays would get as close as 35-34.
“That’s part of our offense,” Minton said. “We really want to move it and attack the basket and look for lay-ups. If we don’t have the lay-ups, I’ve given them the green light. We’re going to shoot the threes.”
Still ahead 39-36 heading into the final quarter, the Lady Panther defense again played havoc on the Hays offense. Kaylie Doll hit a three, and Great Bend converted 8-of-10 free throw tries in the quarter. Hays would not score until Kaitlin Gulley hit a long-two with 1:42 to play. By then it was too late as the Panthers still held a 12-point margin.
“Free throws were huge,” said Minton. “The girls had a lot of confidence in what they were doing. They had a lot of confidence in their shots and didn’t hesitate when they had an open shot. It was good to see after coming off a 1-for-18 performance against Garden City.”
Junior Morgan Harwood scored 10 of her game-high 14 points in the second half, also leading Great Bend with 10 rebounds. Stueder scored 13 points, and Doll added 11 points and five boards. Kelsie Doll finished with five points.
Schumacher finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds to pace the Lady Indians. Janae Gagnon and Gulley each scored 10 points, and Taylor Herrman finished with six points.