Sensing a chance to thin the crowd battling for 25-6A playoff spots Tuesday, the Hays Rebel boys basketball team wasn’t coy in slamming the door on the Austin Maroons.
Backed by 17 points from guard Durand Hill, Hays (17-9, 6-5) utilized a red-hot offense to cruise to a 62-38 win over Austin. With the win, Hays now holds sole possession of the final playoff spot out of 25-6A with five games left, while also placing Austin High, which is one of seven teams fighting for the final three district playoff slots, on the brink of elimination.
Even with several key tests still to come, Hill felt confident things were starting to turn in the Rebels’ favor.
“We’re getting the sense we got this and we’re motivated to keep it going and keep fighting,” Hill said.
Led by Hill, Hays’ offense found its groove from the get-go, building a commanding 9-0 lead within the first three minutes of play. Hays’ lead grew to 17-6 after a quarter which then swelled to 32-13 at intermission.
Hill scored 12 of his 17 points in the first half with six of those points coming by way of an old-fashioned three-point play. Rebel head coach Matt Sandoval lauded Hill, who he said had his best game of the season.
Meanwhile, Sandoval also extolled his entire offensive unit which he felt relentlessly attacked Austin High’s defense for nearly the entire game. That included Rebel senior Carlos Rocha who in the third quarter buried a trio of three-pointers and a three-point play en route to finishing with 12 points. Rebel Caden Doyle finished with eight points.
Hill said execution, adept passing to the open man and “doing what we do” helped spur success on offense. Hays translated its aggressive offensive play to the defensive end, flummoxing Maroon shooters and keeping Austin from finding a rhythm.
“Even though we missed some shots early and turned it (the ball) over, it was the first game we really attacked,” Sandoval said. “Between defensive stops and attacking, those two things made the big difference in the game.”
Preparing for a grueling stretch run and the pressure that comes with trying to shore up a playoff berth is now the goal for the Rebels. Hays plays at Lehman Friday, followed by a home test against state-ranked Westlake Feb. 4. Still on the docket for the Rebels are Anderson, Lake Travis and Del Valle, all of whom are in the thick of the playoff chase.
While Sandoval said Hays has had success at times, he understands closing out a season and punching that playoff ticket is an entirely different mentality his players will need to focus on.
“We haven’t had the chance to drive it home at the end of a season and secure a playoff berth,” Sandoval said. “It’s going to be a dogfight.”
But for Rocha and his fellow seniors who have yet to taste the postseason, getting the chance to close out on their terms is an exciting venture.
“It’s great because we’ve never made the playoffs before, we’ve never experienced it,” Rocha said. “We want to go far.”
District 25-6A boys basketball standings
Del Valle 5-6
Lake Travis 4-7