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Indians' late surge downs Panthers 44-37
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HAYS – Western Athletic Conference rivalry games are often determined by a player who steps up in a pressure environment.

Hays High’s post player Zoe Winter answered the challenge with career highs of 15 points and 11 rebounds to spark the Indians past No. 9 state-ranked Great Bend 44-37 in Friday’s showdown before a packed gym. Katie Linenberger added 14 points and she combined with Winter for 10 second-chance points.

Paige Thexton’s converted a 3-pointer and 2-pointer to slice the Indians’ lead to 34-33. But the Indians closed the game with a 10-4 scoring run.

Hays converted seven free throws down the stretch, a pair by Molly Martin for a 36-33 lead, a trio by Zoe Winter and a 3-point play by Riley Dreher that included a free throw for a 39-33 lead.

Sadie Spray led the Panthers with 16 points off five of 16 shooting against aggressive double teams by the Indians. Thexton added nine points in her best offensive game of the season. The other Panthers converted four of 21 field goals. The Panthers finished with 13 of 45 shooting (29%) against aggressive Indian defense. The Panthers committed 16 turnovers.

"They pressured us, and we worked on handling it," said Panther coach Cindy Beck. "They gave us trouble. We struggled to get good looks at times. We knew both teams would battle to the end."

The Panthers forced 21 Hays turnovers. Panther Makenzie Premer performed an exceptional job slowing down the Indians' all-time 3-point shooter Martin to nine points and two of eight shooting. But Zoe Winter's inside presence was the difference.

"Most of their scores were inside," Beck said. "We did good when we forced them to take outside looks."

Hays (7-5, 3-0 WAC) takes control of the Western Athletic Conference.

Great Bend (10-4, 1-1 WAC) played defense well enough to win except for the end of the first three quarters.

The Indians scored the final points at the end of three quarters. The Panthers elected to not pressure or use available fouls in three consecutive quarters. Martin scored a free throw to end the first quarter for a 9-7 lead. Martin hit a driving shot to end the second quarter for a 20-13 lead. Zoe Winter converted a 3-pointer for a 29-26 lead after three quarters.

Great Bend 7 6 13 11 – 37

Hays High 9 11 9 15 – 44

GREAT BEND (10-4, 1-1)—Spray 5-16 5-7 16, Thexton 4-8 0-0 9, McCauley 1-5 0-0 3, Reimer 1-1 1-1 3, Hall 1-8 0-0 2, Premer 0-6 2-2 2, Ringo 1-1 0-0 2, Totals 13-45 8-10 37.

HAYS HIGH (7-5, 3-0)—Zoe Winter 5-7 4-5 15, Linenberger 6-11 2-3 14, Martin 2-8 5-6 9, Dreher 1-2 1-1 3, Kenlee Wnter 0-2 0-0 0, Armbruster 0-1 0-0 0, Buckles 0-2 0-0 0, Humphrey 0-3 0-0 0, Totals 15-38 12-15 44.

3-pointers—GB 3-16 (Thexton 1-3, McCauley 1-3, Spray 1-8, Hall 0-1, Premer 0-1); H 2-10 (Ross 1-1, Z. Winter 1-1, Dreher 0-1, K. Winter 0-2, Humphrey 0-2, Martin 0-3)