They say records are made to be broken, but some take a little longer than others to fall. The Hays High Indians 8-0 record was the school’s best start in 43 years heading into its Friday night tilt with Garden City.
A strong second half against the Buffaloes ensured that streak would last a little bit longer after coming away with a 47-33 victory, improving its spot on top of the Western Athletic Conference at 3-0.
While this was the first of two WAC meetings between the two schools, it wasn’t the first time the Indians and Buffaloes had tangled this season.
In the first meeting between the schools back in December’s Hays City Shootout Championship, the Buffaloes fell behind early before nearly coming back from a 19 point deficit to eventually lose. The key for Garden City would be to avoid digging themselves a similar hole.
After a disappointing loss to Dodge City to open up WAC play, Garden City coach Jacy Holloway decided to change up his line-up and has seen better results, picking up road wins at Great Bend and Liberal.
Those positive changes would again pay dividends early on for the Buffs. A couple early free throws by Brady Werth gave Hays the early lead before Mitchell Hernandez connected on a long range effort to give Garden City a 3-2 advantage.
Garden City came out with the game plan to slow down the tempo and execute in the half court and in the first quarter it worked. Hunter Delgado found Hernandez who hit his second three of the night to push the Buffaloes lead to 5.
The Buffaloes led by 4 after one quarter, but the second quarter was a game changer for the Indians. Lackadaisical defense by Garden City left Lane Clark unmarked in the corner for an easy three giving Hays back the lead 16-14.
The Indians made three treys in quick succession to close the half, two from the right hand of Jordan Windholz as Hays outscored Garden City 14-2 in the quarter to take a 22-14 lead heading to the locker room.
“We’ve been there before. You just have to keep playing, keep doing what you’re doing and I thought we got a little better. I thought we weren’t trying to trap enough. I thought we were being too polite. When the game got slowed down a little bit we were just kind of mirroring them instead of springing some traps and I thought once we started trapping more the game got sped up a little bit, said Hays head coach, Rick Keltner.”
After being doubled for the majority of the first half, the Indians were finally able to get reigning WAC player of the year, Brady Werth involved. On the half’s first possession, Hays point guard, Kyler Niernberger found the big man with a beautiful high low pass to put Hays up 10.
The Indians maintained that lead until late in the third, when the Buffs began to make a run. Trailing by 4 points entering the fourth quarter, Tristan Nanninga hit a baseline jumper to draw Garden City within 2.
But, just when the Buffs thought they had some momentum, Hays went on a run of their own. A Werth bucket and a Windholz three put the Indians back up by 7 with 6:37 to play.
Much like their second quarter scoring woes, the Buffaloes went cold down the stretch, forced to play the foul game, but the Indians were up to the challenge in pulling away late for the 14 point win.
Garden City head coach Jacy Holloway was left wondering what could have been if not for a rough second and fourth quarters, “We forgot what we were supposed to do. We couldn’t get all five guys to figure out what offense we were in, we didn’t communicate to each other trying to run set plays. So, that doesn’t work if you have three running a set play and two not. Then, we missed some shots. We got some decent looks and even some offensive rebounds on some of those but just didn’t finish those.”
The win keeps Hays perfect in WAC play and in the driver’s seat for a conference championship, but distanced itself from the conversation at this stage in the season.
“We’re not very complicated in Hays, Kansas. We’re just going to try and win the day so we’re not going to get ahead of that, said Keltner.”
Lane Clark led a balanced Indians attack with 13 points on the night. Jordan Windholz and Brady Werth chipped in 12 and 11 points respectively. No Buffalo managed to reach double digits as Mitchell Hernandez and Tristan Nanninga scored 9 points apiece.
In the girls game, Garden City raced out to an 8-0 lead against the winless Lady Indians and never looked backed in a 69-27 win.
Jaymie Bernbeck led the Lady Buffs with 18 pints and Taryn Tempel added 14. Mattison Schlaefli was the only Hays High player to reach double figures with 10 points.