The Great Bend High School boys’ basketball team hadn’t won in a month.
The Hays Indians hadn’t lost, period.
Something had to give on Tuesday night and it wasn’t going to be the Panthers. GBHS stood firm in answering every challenge by the previously unbeaten Indians to pull off a 48-40 victory in their home opener at Panther Fieldhouse.
“I thought our kids played with tremendous energy and they got just got after it tonight,” Great Bend head coach Chris Battin said. “Our thought our fans were really good, and it was nice to get them into it early.
“I thought our defense was really good. Our effort was really there and we played extremely hard.”
The Panthers (2-5 overall, 1-1 Western Athletic Conference) hadn’t won since a consolation losers’ bracket triumph over Thomas More Prep Marian at the season-opening Hays City Shoot-Out in early December.
“For our kids to see from a victory what kind of energy it takes and the type of execution and the way we want to play, being rewarded with a victory was especially special for our kids,” Battin said. “We needed a little momentum builder, and maybe this is it.”
Great Bend went on a 15-0 second-quarter run to forge ahead 22-15 at halftime. And, after Hays slashed its deficit to 34-32 after three quarters following a power move by post player Brady Werth, the Panthers were able to answer in the fourth quarter, sending Hays to their first loss in eight games, dropping the Indians to 1-1 in WAC play.
The Indians had gotten off to their best start since the 1995-96 season.
The Panthers, who converted 8 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter, had post player Ethan Henderson come up big down the stretch. Henderson scored 11 of his 12 points in the final eight minutes to help keep the Indians at bay.
Senior point guard Matt Marshall joined Henderson in leading the team in scoring with 12. Marshall scored nine of his points in the first half, where GBHS snapped a 6-6 tie after one quarter with a 16-9 burst in the second quarter.
“I thought that was important,” Battin said. “We had different guys step up at different times, and Matt was really big in the first half, scoring the basketball and even distributing.
“Ethan really stepped up in the fourth quarter. I give him a lot of credit because in the first quarter, he went 1-for-4 from the free-throw line and then he steps up and goes 7-for-8 from the line in the fourth quarter. That shows a lot of mental toughness by him.”
After Hays tied the Panthers at 34 with three minutes left, Henderson sandwiched a pair of baskets around a Chad Touslee bucket for a 39-34 GBHS lead.
Werth, who had a game-high 17 points, later tied the game with 1:30 remaining at 40-all.
But Great Bend finished with a flourish in the guise of an 8-0 run — all of the points coming from the free-throw line.
Marshall hit two free throws and then Henderson made 3 of 4 to push the margin to 45-40.
After Bryce Beck made 1 of 2 free throws for a 46-40 lead with 20.7 seconds left, Josh Lutz sank a pair with 7.1 ticks left to close the deal.
HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
Western Athletic Conference
At Great Bend
Great Bend 48, Hays 40
HAYS (7-1, 1-1)
Kyle Niernberger 0 0-0 0, Nick Petz 1 0-0 3, Isaiah Nunnery 0 2-2 2, Jordan Windholz 3 0-2 6, Adam Deterding 1 0-0 2, Lane Clark 1 0-0 3, David Cardinal 0 1-4 1, Kade Parker 1 0-0 2, Derek Bixenman 1 1-2 4, Hunter Gonzales 0 0-0 0 Brady Werth 6 5-7 17. Totals 14 9-17 40.
GREAT BEND (2-5, 1-1)
Matt Marshall 5 1-2 12, Chad Touslee 2 0-1 4, Brock Ibarra 0 2-2 2, Bryce Beck 2 3-7 8, Gabe Joiner 1 0-0 3, Ethan Henderson 3 6-13 12, Wyatt Bayless 1 1-2 3, Josh Lutz 0 2-2 2, Nick Warren 1 0-0 2. Totals 15 15-29 48.
Hays 6 9 11 14 — 40
GBHS 6 16 7 19 — 48
Three-point goals — Great Bend 3 (Marshall, Ibarra, Joiner); Hays 3 (Petz, Lane, Bixenman). Total fouls — Hays 22, Great Bend 14. Fouled out — None