by MOSES A. LEOS III
The feeling of anticipation seemed palpable to many Hays High Rebel fans on Friday night. They knew the Rebel boys contest with Alamo Heights was a tilt between the top two teams in District 27-4A, as both squads were undefeated in district play – Hays 3-0, Heights 4-0.
However, Alamo Heights would take advantage of the moment, seizing control and never trailing in the game. Led by junior center Ben Lammers’ game high 22 points, the Mules overpowered Hays 49-35, handing the Rebels their first district loss of the season.
Alamo Heights had the upper hand early on, jumping out to a 9-2 lead within the first 7 minutes, eventually building a 12-6 lead into the 2nd quarter.
It was the presence of Lammers that proved the problem for the Rebels. “Heights did a great job of getting (Lammers) the ball. Whenever you have a big man and you utilize him inside-out, it always creates problems for the defense,” said Rebel Head Coach Dean McMullen.
Assisting Lammers was senior forward Wes Miller, who finished with 14 points, along with sophomore guard Zach Ford’s five point effort.
On the opposite side, Hays’ offense struggled to find their offensive rhythm, all due to Lammers’ ability to grief Rebel shooters.
“(Lammers) is very good at blocking shots and playing big around the goal. He was very disruptive tonight,” McMullen said.
Alamo Heights capped off the final 3 minutes of the first half with an 11-5 run, taking a 28-19 halftime lead.
The third quarter proved to be the Rebels’ resurgence, as Hays fought to stay within striking distance of the Mules. Guard Nathaniel Alvarado, who finished with a team high of 10 points, helped Hays revamp the offense, keeping the team in motion with deft passing.
“We wanted to spread them out, get inside, and make them come out. They had their defense, so we had to do what we had to do. We had to go inside to get open shots. They have a good defense, I’ll give them props. We had to open them up and try to get inside,” Alvarado said.
Little by little, the Rebs whittled away at the Mules lead, helped by a stronger defensive effort in the paint. Sophomore wing Keith Agnew complimented the Rebels efforts in keeping the ball out of Lammers’ hands early in the second half.
“We just tried to keep in front, try not to foul. Try to push (Lammers) out away from the basket, as he likes to score around the bucket. We just tried to push him out and do the best we can,” said Agnew. It worked, as the Mules center was only able to score four points in the third.
Additionally, Agnew recognized the ability of the defense to rotate. “We were trying to make sure that our guards didn’t help off. We tried to keep strong in our post game. The guard that was the weakest shooter, we tried to double down and try to make sure that he didn’t kick it out to a shooter.”
With 2 minutes remaining in the third quarter, Hays only trailed 33-30; the effort aided by an uncontested 23 foot three point shot by Alvarado and a quick left-handed layup from Stephen Jass, who finished with six points on the night.
Those would be the last points Hays would score for roughly 9 minutes. In that time, Heights would rattle off a 16-0 run to extend their lead, effectively snuffing out the Rebels chance at a comeback.
McMullen felt the Rebels’ offense pressed too much in the latter portion of the contest. “We have got to get movement; we rushed our style a little bit. We’ve got to be a little more patient on offense,” said McMullen.
The biggest difference in the game proved to be Alamo Height’s continued aggressive demeanor in the interior. Heights’ style of play allowed them easy buckets in the clutch – something Hays could not maintain, given the oppressive nature of the Mule defense.
With the loss, the Rebels fall to 15-10 on the season, second in district with a 3-1 mark. Alamo Heights improves to 20-2 on the year and earns sole possession of District 27-4A at 5-0.