Behind solid defensive play and three players scoring in double figures Friday, the Hays Rebels basketball team notched its first district victory by crushing the Akins Eagles 67-31 at Bales Gym.
“Every win is a good win, but we are trying to focus on having good practices,” Hays head coach Mathew Sandoval said after the victory. “So that being said, the senior leadership and working hard everyday, we just want to continue to hold serve on that end. We talk about the way you practice is the way you play.”
Rebels senior power forward Carlos Rocha led the team in scoring with 12 points, while also adding five rebounds, four assists and two steals to the stat sheet. Rocha showed off his shooting range by hitting 3-of-4 three point shots.
“It’s a big deal (to get the win), we’ve just got to keep it going to get some more wins in district,” Rocha said. “It feels good to get this first win under the belt.”
Hays also had key performances from senior guards Caden Doyle and Zack Harris. Doyle had 11 points, three steals, one assist and one rebound, while Harris contributed 10 points, four rebounds and three assists.
“They’ve been through this, suffered a lot of growing pains, and I just tell them that it’s their time now,” Sandoval said about the Rebels senior group. “They are taking it in and maximizing the opportunities they have in front of them. They want it and they are hungry.”
The Rebels offense struggled at times in the first half against Akins’ 3-2 zone defense, going 4-of-14 from beyond the arc. But a halftime adjustment to get the ball into the paint helped Hays score 40 points in the second half, including a 23-point fourth quarter performance.
“We did okay (on offense), we can always improve,” Sandoval said. “We settled for a lot of threes, which I like to work it inside-out, so we didn’t do that as much as I would like. But we did hit a few (three-point shots).”
Hays’ suffocating man-to-man defense had 14 steals for the game, while forcing 25 total turnovers by the Eagles. Junior guard Durand Hill led Hays with four steals, while Doyle and junior guard Will Agnew had three steals each.
“We’ve kind of hung our hat a little bit on defense this year,” said Sandoval. “We can play fast if we need to. At the end of the day we are a good basketball team and we want to hang our hat on the defensive side of things.”
For Akins, junior forward Michael Robertson led the team with nine points and four rebounds. Senior guard Beto Morales added six points, four rebounds and one assist.
The win puts Hays at 7-3 overall, with a 1-1 record in 25-6A.
The Rebels travel to play at Austin High (6-5, 1-1) Friday at 7 p.m.
Hays then hosts the Hays CISD Classic Tournament Dec. 26-28 before hosting Lehman Dec. 31 at 7 p.m.