By Moses Leos III
Missed opportunities to tie or take the lead in the final minute Tuesday hurt the Hays Lady Rebel basketball team in a tight 39-35 loss to the Smithson Valley Rangers.
Despite the struggles, Hays head coach Danny Preuss was encouraged by the effort as it provided a needed early season barometer, especially against teams they could potentially play in the postseason.
“They are playing hard and playing good and playing tough,” Preuss said. “Even though we make a lot of mistakes, we’re not quitting.”
Hays (4-2) trailed 20-13 at intermission, but overcame a sluggish start to take a 27-26 lead after three frames.
Spearheading the comeback was Rebel senior Aspaisa Youngbird who scored five of her team-high 13 points in the third frame. All of Youngbird’s third quarter points were scored at the foul line.
Preuss said implementation of a “junk offense” to remedy a stagnant first half output worked.
A more physical brand of basketball also helped the Rebels as well, despite taking on a much taller Ranger lineup. Helping guide that charge was Lady Rebel sophomore Trista Strasser who snagged numerous rebounds in the second half and was a force Smithson Valley struggled to corral. Strasser finished with nine points.
“She (Trista) had quite a few blocks tonight and boards and she demanded the ball,” Preuss asid. “She wanted some shots.”
Turnovers, however, were the Rebels’ Achilles heel for most of the contest. Hays committed 16 total turnovers in the game, three of those within the final five minutes.
Trying to “force too much” was one component of the turnover troubles, along with continuing to foster consistency with four new faces on the court, Preuss said.
Even with early offensive struggles and turnover problems, Hays stayed in contention and rallied from an early fourth quarter deficit to gain a 33-29 via a three-pointer from Youngbird.
But Smithson Valley countered with an 8-2 run, giving the Rangers a 37-35 lead with 96 seconds left in the game.
Hays’ offense generated four solid chances to tally points down the stretch, but couldn’t get the ball in the bucket.
“The girls who were taking the shots, I was okay with them. We needed one to fall. If one of those falls, we win the game,” Preuss said.
As the march toward district play continues, Preuss said playing in similar competitive contests is an asset when they square off with the likes of Westlake and Lake Travis in a few weeks.
“Hopefully we learn from this a little bit and maybe step up and hit those shots next time,” Preuss said. “We need those games like that.”