Hays High’s perfect run comes to an end in state quarters
Senior Dalyn Schwarz suffered an injury early in the contest
HAYS, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - On a veteran-laden team, Hays High forward Dalyn Schwarz is long known for his consistent production, attitude, leadership and demeanor. The 6-foot-6 Schwarz is a three-year starter, a returning first team Western Athletic pick and ranked second for the Indians in scoring each of the last two winters. Schwarz has picked up a college offer and shoots 66 percent, second-best in Kansas, per MaxPreps.
Schwarz entered Tuesday’s Class 5A state quarterfinal contest at 12 points and six rebounds per game. Just 71 seconds into the contest, Schwarz jumped to try and tip the ball back in play. He came down, landed on a player and severely hurt his ankle.
Schwarz required assistance, missed nearly all the first quarter and played limited minutes. In a back-and-forth game, Topeka West defeated Hays High, 52-49, at HHS.
“Toughed it out for a little bit, tried to do the most I could,” Schwarz said. “I mean, that was probably one of the worst ankle rolls I’ve had, and I have rolled my ankle a lot. Definitely wasn’t a pleasant experience.”
Hays High, ranked No. 1 in Class 5A most of the season, finished 22-1, one win shy of the school single season victories record. Topeka West ended the state’s longest current boys’ basketball winning streak at 30 games. The Indians were a 5A Forever Four squad last season in a year that was halted in the state semifinals because of coronavirus.
“There is a very real part of me right now that is feeling like I kind of let our guys down,” second-year Indian coach Alex Hutchins said. “That I didn’t put us in enough positions to be successful, and that I kind of just sat back and had too much trust. But at the same time, that’s what made it so fun to coach this team, and why I do feel like they are such a special group.”
Overall, HHS junior Jace Linenberger, the Indians’ second 6-foot-6 post, paced with a game-high 24 points and seven rebounds. Schwarz finished with two points on a second-quarter basket and one rebound.
“My heart just dropped, because we need him on the court, and we just couldn’t get the job done tonight,” Linenberger said.
The Chargers mainly played zone, a look that coach Rick Bloomquist labeled an “amoeba defense.”
Hays High finished with its third-lowest point total all year and tallied 13 turnovers, multiple ones that yielded fast break scores and dunks for the Chargers. TW guarded the high post with a guard.
“Little things like that, that I think makes a big difference,” Bloomquist said.
Topeka West, at state for the first time since 2010, improved to 20-2. Bloomquist, who has more than 500 career wins, led West to its first outright Centennial League crown in ’20-21. He has battled cancer this winter.
“It changed everything,” Hutchins said. “Dalyn is crucial for us in everything that we do, but especially against a zone. He is our best player against zone. He is kind of a one-man wrecking crew at the high post, and it speaks to his toughness and character that he continued to play and came back out after what did happen. But he was hobbled. He was not his normal self.”
Schwarz re-entered with 2.5 seconds left in the first quarter. He received a standing ovation. Schwarz could only play in short bursts.
“Definitely something I will remember forever,” Schwarz said. “Just my last time out here. Pretty cool.”
Hays High shot 13 of 16 (81 percent) in the first half. HHS led 18-16 after one quarter and 32-29 at halftime. T. West shot 13 of 25 in the first half, including 11 of 17 inside the arc. As well, Hutchins noted TW transitioned well to offense out of the zone.
“They finished really well, both hands,” Schwarz said. “And were aggressive on the boards on both ends. Just tough for us, especially when I can’t really move a whole lot.”
The Indians were up 40-39 with 7:36 remaining when West junior Elijah Brooks went down with an apparent knee injury. Brooks didn’t return. He is Kansas’ best shooter at 67 percent, just ahead of Schwarz.
Seniors Tre Alexander and Marque Wilkerson tallied a team-high 16 points, two more than Brooks. Last year, West was the favorite in its sub-state final when Alexander suffered injury in the middle of the third quarter and West up five. West eventually lost.
“We rolled over,” Bloomquist said. “It was very frustrating, and we brought that up a lot all year. It’s a team game. It’s not a one-man game.”
This time, the game was tied at 47 after HHS junior Carson Kieffer delivered a 3 at the 3:49 mark.
Then, sophomore sixth man Xavier Alexander, who averages 2.9 points per game and had sunk 11 treys before Tuesday, gave TW a 50-47 advantage with a 3-pointer from the right side at the 1:48 mark.
“He was kind of in my doghouse,” Bloomquist said. “He just shook it off, because he knows he can do it. I love that team. I love those boys. I love what they did tonight. I am telling you right now – Hays is a very well-coached, very talented team.”
Hays High senior T.J. Nunnery missed a long 3, though the Chargers misfired the front end of a 1-and-1 with 47.2 seconds remaining. West had fouls to give and burned through several as HHS tried to score.
“It’s evident that we are a better team against man this year than we were against zone,” Hutchins said. “But their zone is just a little different because of the athletes.”
Kieffer is the team’s leading 3-pointer shooter with 28 makes at 44 percent before Tuesday. He missed a trey from the right side. The ball went out of bounds, and Topeka West took possession with 5.5 seconds left.
“At the end of the day, we want to give it to Carson for the 3, because he is our best 3-point shooter, and one of our most clutch players, and sometimes it just doesn’t go in,” Linenberger said.
Hays High fouled junior Zander Putthoff. After a timeout, Putthoff sank both free throws to effectively seal the win. It marked Alexander’s only field goal and Putthoff’s lone points all game.
Linenberger tallied a basket at the buzzer for the final margin. HHS senior Jason Krannawitter put his jersey up to his face in sadness, and Linenberger showed emotions. Hutchins walked over to Nunnery. Junior Noah Weimer hugged Schwarz.
“This team didn’t really have problems,” Hutchins said. “We didn’t have egos. We didn’t have attitudes. They were coachable. They were unselfish. They loved each other. They loved playing together, and so that’s just something that for the rest of my career, I hope I remember.”
The fanbase provided the Indians with another standing ovation. After the team exited the locker room, the players, especially Krannawitter, Schwarz and Linenberger, continued to display emotions as they hugged family and friends. Linenberger said the team is “so close,” words echoed throughout the year from the Indians.
“Just the amount of fun I have had with my friends out here,” Schwarz said. “I mean, it something that I will never forget. Not even the record, just being able to play with my best friends.”
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