by MOSES LEOS III
Torrid three point shooting, along with aggressive defense helped guide the Hays High boys basketball team to a 68-35 victory over Lockhart (3-19, 0-8 in district) in Bales Gym on Tuesday, ending a three game losing streak.
It began early and often, as the Rebels hit the floor running, going on an 11-0 run in the first five-and-a-half minutes of the game. Eventually, Hays built up a staggering 21-6 lead after one quarter of play. Hays’ versatility from the three-point arc became increasingly apparent, as the Rebel offense maneuvered around the perimeter, constantly finding the open shooter on the floor.
“Instead of taking the shot when we got the ball, our shooters stayed patient and passed off to the next man. We felt that if we could pass it around, eventually, we could work around the floor to get more open looks,” said Hays’ sophomore wing Heath Agnew, who led the Rebels with 19 points.
Hays would drain eight three pointers during the course of the game, seven made in the first half.
The Rebel defense played equally stellar, taking advantage of an overly aggressive Lockhart backcourt. The Lion guards constantly played into double-teams and traps along the baseline, which Hays easily turned into turnovers and points.
“That was the first time we ran that particular defense on the floor. We knew that Lockhart’s guards were good at handling the ball. We just put pressure to force them into mistakes,” explained Hays junior guard Jacob Rodriguez.
Rebounding played a critical role in the Rebels controlling the contest. Hays’ ability to take advantage of an undersized Lockhart squad kept the Lions offense at bay, while allowing the Rebels multiple chances to put up points.
“Our goal was to keep Lockhart from the bucket. They had a few good shooters on their team. If we could limit Lockhart’s guards from penetrating the paint, and grab rebounds, we could perform well to win,” said Agnew, who along with Reed Darragh and Keion Jackson controlled the action in the paint.
Hays earned a halftime 41-11 lead, taking the fight from the Lions.
Lockhart began the second half with a determined fury, bursting out of the locker room on a 4-0 run. Sophomore forward Tyrell Williams led the Lockhart charge, scoring the first four points of the half. Williams led all scorers with 19 points on the night.
However, Hays found ways to maintain superiority over Lockhart.
Enter junior point Keion Jackson, who finished with 11 points, five scored in the third quarter alone. His ability to penetrate the paint, earn layups and trips to the foul line kept Hays’ offense churning.
The Rebels would outscore Lockhart 27-24 in the second half, as the Rebels cruised to the easy win.
Hays head basketball coach Dean McMullen complimented the Rebels’ ability to stay proficient from the perimeter.
“Our players did a good job of knowing where everyone was on the floor. Finding the open man and hitting shots when we needed them was key,” McMullen said.
The Rebels’ ability to rebound from three consecutive losses, two of the losses by two points, may have been the most important aspect of Tuesday night’s game.
“We knew we could bounce back from the losing streak. We just want to start winning games. We want to make the playoffs,” said Rodriguez.
With the victory, the Rebels improve their record to 16-12, 5-3 in District 27-4A, keeping themselves in the top half of the district standings with just six games remaining.
McMullen kept an idealistic view of the Rebels’ chances at earning a postseason bid, “We’re right in the middle of the playoff race. In the first half of district play, we went 4-3, with two close losses. We believe our kids are ready to make another (playoff) run.”
Hays’ path to a playoff berth begins on the road, as the Rebels travel to face off against Schertz Clemens on Friday. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Other leading scorers were: Hays junior guard Stephen Ayala with five points. Lockhart’s Jacob Roland with five points, Jared Johnson with four.