Despite being down a starter, the Salina Central boys basketball team played well enough to defeat the No. 1 ranked team in Class 5A.
Instead, the perfect season is still alive for Hays.
Carson Kieffer’s layup before the buzzer completed a 19-point comeback for the Indians as they rallied to down upset-minded Salina Central 47-46 Friday night in Hays. Hays improved to 13-0 while Central dipped to 4-8.
Salina Central entered the contest with an average of five made threes a game. The Mustangs connected on three shots beyond the arc in the first eight minutes. Meanwhile, Hays logged just three buckets, putting the Indians in a 19-6 hole after one.
The Mustangs didn’t stop there. Central hit three more triples, the last by junior Nolan Puckett to wrap up a remarkable first half with Central leading 32-13.
After an ice-cold 16 minutes, Hays heated up in a hurry. The Indians, who recorded just one three in the first half, drilled five in the third to trim the deficit to as little as five. Ultimately, Central took a 42-36 advantage into the fourth.
Hays erased a nine-point deficit with a slow 9-0 spurt, tying the game with 44 seconds left. Salina Central tried to hang onto the ball for the final shot attempt. Senior Reed McHenry was fouled with 10.1 seconds to go. He missed the first, but made the second, giving Central a 46-45 lead.
Kieffer nearly had the ball stolen away by sophomore Kenyon McMillan at halfcourt. Instead, the junior collected the ball, dribbled to the right, and flew to the rim, getting a clean look for the win.
Hays was led by Daylin Swarz with 16 points. Jace Linenberger chipped in 11.
McHenry paced Central with a season-high 26 points. Puckett added 12.
CENTRAL 64, HAYS 43
Girls basketball coach Chris Fear was curious to see his team’s response after a heartbreaking loss in the Salina Invitational Tournament championship.
Simply put, the Lady Mustangs were ready.
However, Hays played with Central for a quarter. Central junior Chaliscia Samilton set the tone in the first, scoring eight of Central’s 19 points. Sophomore Mykayla Cunningham and junior Landy Stewart balanced out the scoring, putting Central on top 19-15.
Junior Aubrie Kierscht took over in the second. The Navy commit registered all but two points in the second eight minutes for Central, propelling the Mustangs to a 33-23 halftime advantage.
Salina Central took complete control with a 10-1 burst coming out of the locker room, en route to a lead as large as 28 points.
Kierscht ended up with 28 points. Samilton had a career-high 14 points with a slew of rebounds and blocks.
Up next for Salina Central: the Salina Showdown at Salina South. Pregame at 5:45 Tuesday on 1150 KSAL and Y93.7.