By Moses Leos III
The ability to weather a pair of Klein Forest Golden Eagle second half rallies places the Hays Rebels a step closer to the regional tournament.
Key buckets down the stretch allowed Hays to hold off state ranked Klein Forest 61-56 in Friday’s area round playoff at Hearne High School.
Hays advances to play Humble Atascocita, ranked second in Class 6A, in the regional quarterfinal round Tuesday at College Station High School. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Klein Forest held a 6-3 lead before the Rebels closed the first quarter on a 13-2 run. Hays led 16-8 after a quarter; they continued to build momentum into the second frame. Hays opened the second quarter on an 8-2 run, taking a 24-10 lead. The Rebels led 32-18 at halftime.
Sophomore Charles Bohannon and seniors Ian Vassberg and Heath Agnew guided the second quarter surge. The trio combined to score 13 of the Rebels’ 16 second quarter points. Bohannon scored a team-high 16 points.
A speedy Hays defense played a factor in the first half. Hays kept up with an equally quick Klein Forest team.
According to Klein Forest head coach Cary Black, Hays was “one of the fastest teams we’ve played.”
In addition, Rebel head coach Sam Lunz said he stressed intensity in the paint. From guards to forwards, Hays snagged rebounds, at times out-muscling Klein Forest.
Hays used adept ball movement on offense to slow the pace and take Klein Forest out of their element. Lunz said the team has worked to understand the “balance of being aggressive and taking good shots.”
“We were solid on our ball movement, executing our plays,” Bohannon said. “We never have a problem scoring, so that worked to our advantage.”
Hays’ lead swelled to 40-20 in the third quarter before the Golden Eagles stormed back. Increases in tempo helped Klein Forest attain momentum; in turn, Klein Forest began chipping away at the Rebel lead.
“We tried to do a little organized chaos,” Black said. “When a team is up, they protect a lead. When a team is down, they play a little harder. So we scrambled a bit.”
The Golden Eagles fought to pull within 45-35; Hays led 48-35 heading into the final quarter.
The Rebels regained their rhythm to start the fourth quarter, hitting key perimeter shots. On the opposite end, Klein Forest committed several unforced turnovers.
Three pointers from Agnew and junior Jake Krafka, along with a three-point play from Anthony Lewis helped Hays rebuild a 55-44 lead.
But Klein Forest rallied right back. They turned to 6-foot, 8-inch senior DeAndre Williams, who carried the Golden Eagles back into contention. Kick started by a three-pointer from Williams, Klein Forest clawed back to within six points at 58-52. Williams led the Golden Eagles with 15 points, 11 in the fourth quarter.
Hays senior Nate Alvarado said the team countered by running their offense.
“We knew basketball is a game of runs,” Alvarado said. “So we had to get back in our groove.”
But play ground to a halt with 28 seconds left. Klein Forest guard Rashon Thomas suffered a lower leg injury following a block attempt, which required assistance from paramedics.
“His injury shook up the whole stadium. I felt bad for him; the team felt bad for him,” Bohannon said. “We had to push through to get the win, but his injury took an effect.”
The Golden Eagles soldiered on after the delay. They trimmed Hays’ lead to three at 59-56.
It was as close as Klein Forest could get. Two crucial free throws from Bohannon with seven seconds left put Hays and the game out of reach.
Hays’ Krafka finished with 11 points, while Alvarado had 10 points. Klein Forest’s Cameron Criswell scored 10 points.