A trio of players in double figures carried the Hays Rebels boys basketball team to a 54-36 Dec. 31 win over the rival Lehman Lobos in the final Hays CISD varsity athletic contest of the decade.
Spurring Hays’ win was an offense that outscored Lehman 44-24 over the final 18-plus minutes of the contest. Success in the paint predicated on using a taller lineup paid dividends for the Rebels who remain in the thick of the 25-6A playoff chase.
“We were the bigger team, guards and bigs. It was just being the bigger team,” said Hays head boys basketball coach Matt Sandoval. “Getting the ball inside and dominate inside. We didn’t dominate but we showed face and we held serve.”
Hays’ (11-6, 3-2) play in the paint allowed the Rebels to climb out of an early 12-10 deficit to the Lobos (11-11, 1-4) in the second frame. A 16-2 Rebel run in the final six minutes of the first half gave Hays a commanding 26-14 advantage at intermission.
Lobo head coach Ben Wiatrek said Lehman’s offense, which was able to keep pace with Hays in the early going, grew stagnant as the contest wore on. Part of the problem was Lehman’s inability to create points off of turnovers, which had been their strong suit of late. A smothering Rebel defense also kept Lehman’s offense in check the final three quarters. Lehman senior guard Jarek Salinas finished with a team high nine points.
“We got stagnant as far as moving the ball and attacking the basket. And hey, give them (Hays) credit, they played some heavy help man (to man) defense and clogged the lane,” Wiatrek said.
On the opposite side, Hays’ offense found its groove and turned to its size advantage to stay a step ahead of Lehman. The Lobos rallied back to cut Hays’ lead to 30-25 late in the third frame before the Rebels closed the contest on an 18-6 run.
Rebel senior guard Caden Doyle, who finished with a game high 15 points, said consistent shooting and strong team chemistry were key cogs in the win. Helping Doyle was guard Luke Watson, who scored 11 points, and post Carlos Rocha’s 10 points. Hays’ offense knocked down six three pointers in the game and was 9 of 13 from the free throw line.
“Surprisingly, we have a bunch of young players but we seem to be playing good,” Doyle said. “We pass the ball well and we’re not selfish. That helps us a lot.”
Both Hays and Lehman now prepare for the meat of district play in January. Wiatrek said there’s “no rest for the weary” as the Lobos take on district frontrunners Bowie, Lake Travis and Westlake within a two week span. Wiatrek hopes the Lobos carry momentum gained from a bronze bracket championship win at the Rebel Christmas Classic tournament into the new year.
“From here on out, there are no more tournaments for us to get better,” Wiatrek said. “We have to get better at practice and each game we play.
Sandoval also hopes the Rebels can capitalize off of a strong finish at the Rebel classic. Hays captured the silver bracket title as hosts. Taking things one practice and one game at a time is the focus for Sandoval, who has seen his program continue to improve in his two years at the helm.
“Patience is a virtue. Not everyone can see what’s happening underwater, but when it starts to surface, good things are ahead,” Sandoval said. “I’m pleased with these guys and the coaching staff and the job they’ve done and we look forward to battling it out for a playoff spot.”