Late free throws lifts Hays past Lehman in 59-55 thriller

Four clutch free throws knocked down with under 15 seconds left by senior forward Noah Fultz sealed a 59-55 win for the Hays Rebels over the rival Lehman Lobos Friday.

The moment capped off a wild fourth quarter where Hays held back a furious comeback effort by Lehman.

“Every game is very important but you know Lehman is a special game for obvious reasons,” Hays head coach Matthew Sandoval said. “As long as I’ve been here, it’s been just like this and we expected nothing different. Our kids were focused, prepared and ready to play. We got the win tonight, very important win.”

Hays led 51-39 with 4:21 left in the fourth quarter. A 12-4 Lobo run, however, shifted momentum and cut the Rebel lead to only four points with under a minute to go in the game.

Lobo senior point guard Cameron Jones hit a fast break three pointer to pull the score to 55-54 with 16 seconds left on the clock. After being intentionally fouled on back-to-back possessions, Fultz sunk all four free throw attempts, solidifying the road win.

“I just focused on winning the game,” Fultz said. “I just canceled everything out and stuck to myself.”

Fultz finished the game with a double-double, 15 points and 11 rebounds; Fultz scored 11 points and snagged six rebounds in the second half.

“They were big, big,” Sandoval said. “He (Fultz) grew up right there. He’s a senior, he got put in a tough situation in a tough environment and he knocked them down. So hats off to him.”

Leading 39-37 after the third quarter, the Rebels went on a run early in the fourth as sophomore guard Will Agnew, junior power forward Carlos Rocha and junior guard Caden Doyle all hit three-point shots on four straight possessions. The improved three-point shooting was a big key to the Rebels’ success in the game, according to Sandoval.

“It’s been a long time coming, but fortunately we were able to make them today.” said Sandoval.

Another key was Hays out-rebounding the Lobos 37-21 in the game. Hays’ size advantage in the post was too much for Lehman, which made a difference in the final moments.

“It’s very important, we have to do those things to win in general,” Sandoval said.  “We have size advantage so that’s something we definitely have to do and it turned out in our favor tonight.”

Rocha also finished with a double-double by scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds while also notching two assists. Doyle also finished the game with eight points, four assists and two rebounds, while Agnew had nine points, two rebounds and two assists off the bench.

For Lehman, Jones had 17 points, three assists, three rebounds and one steal in the game. Lobos sophomore power forward Nijah Collier was another key contributor with 10 points, six rebounds, one block and one steal.

Hays hosts state-ranked Westlake Friday at 7:30 p.m., while Lehman travels to play at Anderson Friday at 8 p.m. Both teams play in the Hays Classic Tournament Dec. 27-29.

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