BY JIM MISUNAS
Thank goodness for Great Bend Panther Brayton Council.
The Panthers fizzled from the start against No. 3 state-ranked 5A Hays High by scoring on one of their first 27 offensive possessions. Council converted a first-quarter 3-pointer after the Indians scored the first eight points.
The next time, the Panthers scored, it was Hays High 26-3. The Panthers committed 10 turnovers and missed 16 of their first 17 field goal attempts in a 51-24 setback to Hays High Tuesday night.
Thank goodness for persistence.
Panther Sage Koelsch ended the lengthy scoring drought with a rebound basket on the Panthers' fourth attempt on a possession for a 26-5 score. The Indians led 28-10 at halftime.
It was a nightmarish start against the co-league champions that ended the Panthers' spectacular season last year in Great Bend. Hays High (7-0, 3-0 WAC) is a dominating favorite to sweep through the Western Athletic Conference after tying the Panthers last season with 7-1 records.
The Panthers (3-4, 1-1 WAC) were missing injured 6-5 center Cal Dunekack and guard Cole Streck.
"We've got to come out and play with more fire. We came out flat," said Great Bend coach Tim Brooks. "We've got to get more ready to play basketball. We got some looks and we didn't knock them down. We got shots at the rim and some 3s, but nothing fell. Fortunately, Brayton (Council) hit a 3, or we'd been scoreless there."
Hays High's 6-foot-6 Jace Linenberger was dominant inside with 14 points, aggressive rebounding and several blocked shots. Standout T.J. Nunnery was spectacular with 10 points, aggressive defense and a flying slam dunk for a 28-8 lead right before halftime. The Indians knocked down five 3-pointers and showed off a nice inside game.
The inside/outside scoring potential made the Indians a challenge to defend. The Panthers pushed out to defend the 3-pointer, but the Indians adjusted with drives to the basket and nifty inside passes.
"They have a lot of guys who can shoot it," Brooks said. "Every guy on our scouting report, they can shoot it."
The Panthers showed some spark, paced by Sam Hall, who kept battling despite getting several shots altered or blocked. Hall led the Panthers with a modest six points, but never backed down to the powerful Indians. Koelsch, Stefan Spray and supersub Cayden Scheuerman each added five points. Scheuerman was the night's best player with hustling play off the bench.
The Indians defended the stylish Spray with four defenders — Carson Kieffer, Nunnery, Jordan Hale and Dalyn Schwarz.
Friday's opponent, 6A Hutchinson High features 6-8 Weston Kraus, 6-7 Tate Webster and 6-7 Myles Thompson for a tall frontline.
"It doesn't get easier because Hutchinson has a pair of 6-7 guys and a 6-8 center," Brooks said.
INDIANS 51, PANTHERS 24
Hays High 15 13 14 9 — 51
Great Bend 3 7 15 9 — 24
HAYS HIGH (3-0, 7-0)—Linenberger 5-13 4-4 14, Nunnery 4-5 0-0 10, Oakley 0-1 0-0 0, Krannawitter 0-2 2-4 2, Kirffer 1-2 2-2 5, Weimer 1-1 0-0 3, Dale 3-5 0-0 6, Hernandez 1-1 0-0 3, Wellbrock 0-1 2-2 2, Schwarz 0-2 0-0 0, Totals 18-38 10-12 51
GREAT BEND (1-1, 3-4)—Sam Hall 2-11 2-4 6, Sage Koelsch 1-10 3-4 5, Stefan Spray 2-10 0-0 5, Cayden Scheuerman 2-3 1-1 5, Brayton Council 1-2 0-0 3, Joseph Moeder 0-2 0-0 0, Totals 8-38 6-9 24
3-pointers—H 5-11 (Nunnery 2-2, Hernandez 1-1, Weimer 1-1, Kieffer 1-2, Oakley 0-1, Krannawitter 0-1, Dale 0-1, Wellbrock 0-1, Schmidtberger 0-1), GB 2-12 (Council 1-2, Spray 1-3, Moeder 0-2, Koelsch 0-5)