For the better part of two-plus quarters Tuesday, the Hays Rebels boys basketball team had the state-ranked Westlake Chaparrals on the ropes.
But an intermittent second half Rebel offense, paired with 26 points from Chaparral KJ Adams, kept Hays from delivering the knockout blow in a 62-55 loss to No. 5 Westlake at Bales Gym.
Hays (18-10, 7-6) led 29-28 at halftime but couldn’t generate a rhythm on offense early in the third frame. Westlake capitalized on Hays’ miscues and orchestrated a six-minute, 8-0 run to take a 36-29 advantage.
Missed free throws, along with Westlake’s ability to snag second-chance opportunities on offense, contributed to the lull, said head coach Matt Sandoval. Not taking care of the “little things,” such as missed layups and the fundamentals, equally kept Hays’ offense grounded at times.
“You’ve got to do better than that in games against Westlake, number one teams,” Sandoval. “We talked about that. Those free throws add up, those second chance points add up.”
Hays shirked their struggles and responded with a 12-5 run capped off with a bucket from Carlos Rocha, giving Hays a 42-41 lead early in the fourth quarter. Back-and-forth buckets left the game tied at 48-48 with less than three minutes to play.
But for every Rebel run, Westlake had an equally strong response. Guided by Adams, who tallied 11 of his 26 points in the final frame, Westlake outscored Hays 14-7 down the stretch for the win.
“KJ Adams is a monster. He’s a great athlete and basketball player and they rode him to the victory,” Sandoval said.
Despite the loss, Sandoval lauded Hays’ man-to-man help defense which kept Westlake and Adams in check for most of the first half. Ultimately, focusing on themselves and “getting better at what we do” paved the way for success in the first half.
Aiding that cause was Rebel senior Luke Watson who scored 12 of his team high 20 points in the first two frames. Two other Rebels finished in double figures with Durand Hill tallying ten points and Carlos Rocha scoring 12.
“We were just working at making us the best we can be,” Sandoval said. “We saw the focus. We did what we wanted to do than we had in the past. It showed tonight, but tip your hat to them.”
Taking the No. 5 team in the state on the brink of an upset provided a needed boost of confidence for a Rebel team still in the thick of the 25-6A playoff chase. With three games left in the regular season, Hays remains a game ahead of Del Valle for the final playoff spot.
Following Friday’s road tilt against Lake Travis, Hays hosts Del Valle Feb. 11 in what amounts to the battle for a playoff berth.
“All we’re focused on is tomorrow and we’re trying to get better at practice,” Sandoval said.