cBY JIM MISUNAS
HAYS — Thank goodness for Great Bend Panther Braylon Council, who played an amazing basketball game.
Council's driving shot prevented the Hays High Indians from pitching a first-quarter shutout. The Indians led 17-2, ignited by T.J. Nunnery's slam dunk that started Wednesday's 58-38 substate basketball victory over the Panthers. The unbeaten No. 1 ranked 5A Indians converted 7 of 11 first-quarter shots and shut down the Panthers to one field goal on 16 offensive possessions.
Jace Linenberger paced the Indians with 21 points and Dalyn Schwarz added 14 points. The Indians converted 23 of 41 field goals. The Indians play Salina South Saturday for a 5A state basketball berth.
What started as a complete mismatch eventually developed intrigue thanks to a pesky band of Panthers who found a way to compete against nearly impossible odds and overwhelming talent. The Indians built a 23-7 lead when Jace Linenberger hit back-to-back baskets.
"We give up size and quickness. We're outmanned at every spot," said Great Bend coach Tim Brooks. "Hays is a good basketball team. Their size down low gave us problems."
Great Bend freshman phenom Mattox Spray foreshadowed the Panthers' eventual strategy when he drilled his first varsity 3-pointer. Sam Hall dished to Stefan Spray, who scored twice and Cole Streck added another 3-pointer for a 27-14 halftime deficit.
Linenberger scored eight consecutive Indian points for a seemingly safe 35-15 lead halfway through the third period.
But it's not over until the Panthers say it's over.
Council ignited six consecutive 3-pointers by the Panthers with an assist to Stefan Spray. Cole Streck knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers, the second off transition. Council pitched in a 3-pointer and Streck capped an incredible 15-5 scoring run with another 3-pointer for a 40-30 score with 6:30 left in the game.
"We showed relisiancy. That was fun to watch," Brooks said. "We knocked down some 3s and played very well in that stretch. We made some very good reads against their defense. Defensively, we forced them to take some threes they probably didn't want to take."
Crafty Hays point guard Carson Kieffer took charge with back-to-back assists to Linenberger. Linenberger's back-to-back offensive rebounds led by a basket by Noah weimer and a 3-pointer by Kieffer for a 52-33 lead.
The Panthers (4-15) ended the season on an eight-game losing streak dating back to a Jan. 23 victory over Wichita West. Streck enjoyed a career high scoring night with 14 points and Council scored a career high 13 points after a previous career high against Hays High last week. Back-up point guard Council performed superbly against the Indians' aggressive ball pressure.
The Panthers played without injured players Paco Hernandez, Joseph Moeder and Cayden Scheuerman and Matthew Moeder and point guard Sage Koelsch were also sidelined.
Brooks was proud how the Panthers fought against the state's top-ranked 5A basketball team. Seniors graduating are Cal Dunekack, Cole Streck and Sam Hall.
"I coached a group of fine young men with good personalities," Brooks said. "I enjoyed every step with them."
Great Bend 2 12 10 14 — 38
Hays High 17 10 13 18 — 58
GREAT BEND (4-15)—Streck 5-10 0-0 14, Council 5-13 1-2 13, Stefan Spray 2-7 2-2 7, Mattox Spray 1-1 0-2 3, Sam Hall 0-3 0-0 0, Dunekack 0-1 1-2 1, Totals 13-35 4-8 38
HAYS HIGH (21-0)—Linenberger 8-10 4-6 21, Schwarz 6-9 2-2 14, Kieffer 3-7 3-4 12, Dale 2-4 0-0 5, Weimer 1-3 0-0 2, Nunnery 1-3 0-2 2, Krannawitter 1-5 0-2 2, Totals 23-41 9-16 58
3-pointers—GB 8-17 (Streck 4-8, Council 2-5, M. Spray 1-1, S. Spray 1-3); H 3-15 (Linenberger 1-1, Dale 1-3, Kieffer 1-4, Weimer 0-2, Nunnery 0-2, Krannawitter 0-3)