Indians run it back to state tournament in back-to-back years


Cayden Sanders

Seniors Tj Nunnery and Dalyn Schwarz are pictured setting up a pick a roll screen against WAC rival Great Bend on March 2nd.

The Hays High boys basketball team entered sub-state having claimed the Western Athletic Conference championship and having recorded an undefeated regular season. With the win over Great Bend on March 2, the Indians were one win away from returning to state after being denied the opportunity of knowing where they stood in the state in 2020. The Indians being a part of the “Forever Four” in 5A look to avenge the lost opportunity against Salina South on March 6.

Coming into this season, the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) changed how the post-season would look throughout all levels of high school basketball. KSHSAA moved from ranking all the teams from across the state in tournament style to having sub-state tournaments that pair the closest schools in each division together.

The Indians sub-state included both Salina Central and Salina South, plus Great Bend. Going into the season, the Indians and Salina South Cougars were favored to be in the sub-state finals game. Throughout the season, the two teams proved their worth in 5A, as they were at the top of the rankings for most of the season.

Until the final week of the coaches’ poll, the Cougars kept pace with the Indians to have home court advantage in the semi-final game. But, the Cougars lost two games in two days to 5A Maize and 6A Campus.

In the game between the Indians and Cougars, the community members and student section came out in full force. The Indians had a quick start, claiming a nine-point lead before a shooting foul with two seconds left in the quarter. The Indians had a 16-9 lead at the end of the quarter.

At the start of the second quarter, the referees made a controversial call on junior Jace Linenberger, which would send him to the bench with two fouls. The Indians turned the ball over on a stolen pass, and the Cougars used that to their advantage with a dunk from senior Josh Johnson. The Cougars went on a 21-12 run in the second quarter to have a 30-28 lead going into the half time.

After halftime, the Indians and Cougars had a slow start. Linenberger got his fourth foul within two minutes of the half starting. The quarter proved to be costly for both teams, as they racked up fouls and turnovers. Neither team scored more than 10 points in the quarter.

In the fourth quarter, the Indians pulled away from the Cougars with a 23-9 run. The Indians went on to win the game 61-48.

The Indians moved to 22-0 on the season, and they advanced to play 5A No. 6 Topeka West at home on March 9 at 6 p.m.