When practice began at Bales Gym Monday, Hays High girls basketball coach Danny Preuss informed his team the 2016 season was, in essence, starting over.
Hays, which has started the season 2-5, battled illness, injury and the absence of key players due to other sports and school obligations.
But Preuss said the return of key players, including junior Gabby Bosquez, brings optimism for a Hays squad that looks to get healthy following a difficult early season stretch.
“At this point in the year, I need to get healthy. I need to see what kind of team we have,” Preuss said. “I think I have a good team. But I don’t know. I want to believe I have a good team. When you have four starters return from last year, I think we should have a good team.”
Hays worked to overcome some of that adversity during a 2-3 run in the Drip Classic basketball tournament in Dripping Springs. It began with a 1-1 mark in pool play on Nov. 10.
The Rebels, however, stumbled out of the blocks with a 50-24 loss to Leander Rouse. Hindering the Rebels was the absence of Bosquez and Breajee McMillian, who was injured in a car accident that same day.
Preuss said having those two players out got into his players’ heads.
“We played decent in the first half, but in the second half, we shut down,” he said. “But it’s good facing teams like that later on.”
The Rebels followed by turning in a “solid second half” in a win over Texas City, which catapulted them into the winners bracket. Preuss said the team turned the corner when it came to aggressiveness.
“If we’re an aggressive team, we play good. If we lay back, we’re not that good,” Preuss said. “We have to bring it night in and night out if we’re going to be successful.”
But Hays’ momentum was snuffed out in a 20-point loss to Cibolo Steele, which is currently the No. 2 team in the Texas Girls Coaches Association (TGCA) Class 6A poll. While the Rebels had foul trouble in the game, Preuss said the team excelled on defense. Steele, which had scored 98 and 72 points in their first two games of the tournament, was limited to 58 points by Hays.
Execution, however, became the Rebels’ downfall, even with the return of McMillian.
“We played with a lot of enthusiasm, but we didn’t execute,” he said.
Hays closed out the tournament with a win over Pflugerville Connally, followed by a loss to 25-6A foe Lake Travis.
Preuss said the Rebels couldn’t keep up with the hot shooting Cavaliers, which hit 13 three-pointers in the game. Hays also struggled with foul trouble, while also losing McMillian to an ankle injury.
But for Preuss, the tournament also gave many role players the chance to hit the floor and gain experience.
“After Saturday, one thing I got out of the game was my so called ‘subs’, who are not going to be starters and don’t know how much playing time they’re going to get, proved something, which was good,” Preuss said. “I had to rely on them more than I normally would.”