Late game meltdown sinks Hays girls hoops 44-42

Postseason dreams are now on the brink of slipping out of the Hays Lady Rebel basketball team’s grasp.

Lady Rebel miscues within the final three minutes Friday allowed the Anderson Lady Trojans to orchestrate a key 7-2 run to escape with a 44-42 win. The defeat kept Hays (12-16, 3-6) two games behind Austin High for the fourth and final playoff spot in 25-6A.

With only seven games left in the regular season, Hays head coach Danny Preuss said his team will have to “play with pride,” and get some help, to make up ground and stay in the postseason chase.   

“We kind of wiggled our way out of the playoffs. We’re not out by any means, but we don’t control our own destiny,” Preuss said. “Every game’s got to be where ‘hey, this could be our last.’”

Hays led Anderson 40-37 with roughly three minutes left in the game before the Lady Trojans stormed right back. Guided by senior Cai Wilson, Anderson went on a 7-0 run that was partially aided by Rebel defensive breakdowns. After free throws from junior Lily Guevara, Hays had several opportunities in the final minute to tie or take the lead but was unable to equalize.

Preuss said he felt Anderson outhustled Hays for most of the contest; he also said Hays didn’t stick to its game plan down the stretch Friday. Preuss also cited Hays’ continued struggles in finishing games in the clutch.

Four of Hays’ six district losses have come as a result of second half meltdowns; two of those six losses were by three points or fewer.

“[Assistant coach Detrick] Stigall said we have to outhustle the other team. If we did that we’d be okay,” Preuss said. “But teams are coming into our gym, or we’re going to other places, and they’re outhustling us. I’m not okay with that. We’ve got to do a better job of setting the pace.”

Early on, Hays’ offense found its groove in the paint via junior Trista Strasser who tallied the team’s first 10 points of the contest. Strasser led the team with a double-double by scoring 17 points and 18 rebounds. Guevara also had a double-double with 11 points and 13 boards.

Preuss said Strasser played with more aggressiveness and has gained more confidence with her abilities and vision on the court.

“She’s gotten a lot more active. I can see that more in practices and games where she’s raising the bar a little bit with her game,” Preuss said.

But for every Lady Rebel run, Anderson answered in-kind. After Hays led 10-5 midway through the first frame, Anderson rallied and surged ahead to take a 19-11 advantage early in the second quarter.

Following a 17-2 Lady Rebel run giving Hays a 28-21 lead early in the third frame, Anderson battled back to cut Hays’ advantage to 34-33.

Struggles in shooting the ball played a role in Hays’ inability to fend off Anderson. The Lady Rebels shot 20% from the field, 13% from three-point range and 43% from the charity stripe.

“We didn’t put the nail in the coffin. We kind of let up and let them back in,” Preuss said. “Every time they went on a run, we went on a run to keep it close. Anderson’s a team where they keep it close and get a point or two lead, they’re tough.”

Improvement is key for Hays as the team essentially must win out to keep its postseason hopes afloat.

“I’ve got a lot of good players. We have to put it together. We have to play more like a team,” Preuss said.

Hays hosts Akins at home Friday at 7 p.m. at Bales Gym.

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