By JASON GORDON
After being swept by the Lehman boys basketball team a season ago and watching the Lobos go on to their first-ever playoff appearance, Hays head coach Dean McMullen had a plan.
When the Lobos and Rebels met for the first time this season on Friday, Lehman saw two very intimidating factors waiting for them in the middle of Hays’ zone defense.
Six-foot, 8-inch Hayden Cagle and 6-foot, 7-inch Travis Miller were there to make any Lobo player think twice about driving into the paint.
It helped lead Hays to a 60-48 win at Lehman in the district opener for both schools.
“Not many teams can put two big kids on the floor like we can,” said Hays guard Caleb Kimbro. “It’s pretty nice. I’ve never played on a team with this much size.”
The Hays boys basketball team, which hasn’t made the playoffs in more than a decade, is usually known for its matchup disadvantages when it comes to height when it steps on the court. Not this season, however.
“I think it would be pretty intimidating to see two guys as tall as Travis and me on the court for the same team,” Cagle said. “You don’t see that in high school basketball much. We had eight offensive rebounds in the first quarter alone as a team, and I think that really set the tone for the game.”
McMullen agreed that the presence of Miller and Cagle, who combined for 14 points, 19 rebounds and five blocks, was a key factor in the game.
“They were so concerned with our big guys,” McMullen said. “You really have to be when you have two guys that tall in the lineup.”
Hays led 15-14 after one quarter of play but extended the lead to 25-16 midway through the second quarter after hitting 3-pointers on four consecutive possessions.
Jacob Rodriguez assisted on two Kimbro 3-pointers from the top of the key, and Jaren Rodriguez and Trey Johnson also nailed 3-pointers during the crucial stretch.
Lehman battled back to take a brief lead behind DeAndre Carson’s six quick points, but Hays rallied to grab a 32-27 halftime lead.
The Rebels steadily built that advantage, leading 47-39 after three quarters of play, and held off another Lobo rally in the fourth quarter when Hays was able to break the Lehman pressure defense. Kimbro, Jacob Rodriguez, Cagle, Johnson and Steven Jass all scored mid-range jumpers or layups in the final period to help the Rebs seal the win.
“I played some of these guys from Lehman in middle school and they were always beating us when they were at Chapa and Wallace,” said Cagle, a sophomore who’s on varsity for the first time this season. “It’s nice to finally beat them now that we’re in high school.”
McMullen said he hopes the win over Lehman is a springboard into the playoffs and perhaps even a district title for a Hays team that won only three games in District 27-4A last season.
“Our goal is to win district,” McMullen said. “This almost feels like the beginning of the season for us because we finally have all the guys we expected to have healthy and playing together. We still want to get better each day we step on the court and if we continue to do that we have a chance to accomplish some great things.”
Jaren Rodriguez led Hays against Lehman with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Kimbro had 13 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, Cagle had eight points, nine rebounds and three blocks, and Miller had six points, 10 rebounds and three blocks for the Rebs. Carson led Lehman with 17 points.
Lehman will try to prevent Hays from earning a sweep this season when the two teams meet for the rematch at Bales Gym on January 24.