Canyon has figured out one way to beat the Hays boys basketball team – let the Rebels build a double-digit lead and then come roaring back.
Just like when the two teams met last month, Hays led big early, only to see the Cougars claw back for the victory.
Last Friday night at Bales Gym, Hays led 16-6 in the first quarter and 44-37 in the third, but Canyon was the one that came away with a 66-59 win in the Rebs’ regular-season finale.
Despite the loss, Hays finished third in District 27-4A and advances to play Kerrville Tivy in the bi-district round of the playoffs Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. at South San Antonio High School’s Durbon Athletic Center (2737 Bobcat Lane, 78224).
“I think sometimes we don’t play the whole 32 minutes,” said Hays sophomore Hayden Cagle, who led the Rebels with 17 points. “I think we just stopped doing what we’re good at.”
The Rebels should have had one more game remaining in District 27-4A action, but Hays scheduled one more non-tournament regular season game than the UIL allows, so the team forfeited its Feb. 14 game against Smithson Valley.
Whether Hays would have won or lost that game, the Rebs still would have finished third in District 27-4A.
“I believe we’re going to go out and play our best game of the season against Kerrville Tivy,” Hays head coach Dean McMullen said. “I don’t think the loss to Canyon will hurt our momentum. We’re going to get right back in the gym and start practicing fundamentals – dribbling, passing, shooting and playing defense. They are what got us here and they are what will make us successful in the playoffs.”
Against Canyon, the Rebels started the game seeming like they might not miss a shot all night.
Cagle scored Hays’ first eight points, including a 3-pointer, and Jaren Rodriguez and Caleb Kimbro followed with 3-pointers of their own, and the Rebs led 16-6 five minutes into the game.
Canyon battled back to within 32-29 late in the second quarter based mainly on the inside dominance of 6-foot, 11-inch center Andrew Poulter, who finished with a game-high 24 points. The Rebels rallied back, however, as Cagle made a sweet move in deep post for a layup and took a bounce pass that Jacob Rodriguez tossed from half court for another easy basket and Hays led 36-29 at the break.
Kimbro, who finished with 12 points, hit another 3-pointer midway through the third quarter to give Hays a 44-37 lead, but it was all Canyon from there.
The Cougars, who went on a 22-2 run to take control when the teams squared off in mid-January, went on a 23-8 surge this time. Poulter scored eight points and Ian Gulick added seven more during the run.
Austin Karrer’s steal and layup with just over three minutes remaining gave Canyon a 52-48 lead, and the Cougars hit 12 of 14 free throws down the stretch to put the game on ice. Canyon improved to 9-2 in District 27-4A play.
“I thought they utilized their big man very well tonight,” McMullen said. “They started going to him and they never stopped.”
Cagle said he doesn’t think it will take Hays, which finished 7-5 in 27-4A, long to get over the loss to Canyon. Hays finishes the regular season with a 17-16 overall record.
“Our goal all season long was to not only get into the playoffs but to go at least a couple of rounds once we got there,” Cagle said. “We’ve worked too hard this season for that not to happen.”
Kerrville Tivy lost to Boerne Champion last Friday 49-45 to fall to 16-15 overall and 8-4 in District 28-4A.
Tivy is led by Zach Overby’s 14 points per game and Matt Perry, who averages 12 points per contest.
“They are a fundamentally sound, physical team who I would say is methodical compared to the fast pace we like to play at,” McMullen said. “They play tough man-to-man defense and we’re going to try and utilize our big lineup against them.”
Hays will have a definite height advantage on Tivy with 6-foot, 8-inch Cagle and 6-8 Travis Miller.
“Tivy’s tallest kid is 6-6, so they are definitely not as tall as Alamo Heights or Canyon were in our district,” McMullen said. “We know their style, and we match up against them really well. I’m excited to see what we can go against Tivy and hopefully beyond in the playoffs.”
The Rebel boys basketball team hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2001. The Hays boys last playoff game win came in 1980.
If Hays beats Tivy, its most likely next two opponents in the playoffs would be Lake Travis (27-5), the 21st-ranked team in Class 4A, in the second round and Alamo Heights (28-2), the 3rd-ranked team in Class 4A, in the third round.
“To go on a playoff run would be huge,” Kimbro said. “You always think Hays football growing up in this area. If we could get the little kids around here talking about how good boys basketball is too maybe this could be the start of building this program into something great.”