After a disappointing loss in the Salina Invitational Tournament championship, the Salina Central girls basketball team rebounded in a ranked showdown.
Senior Myah Ward swished in three giant triples in the fourth quarter, post players Elisa Backes and Holly Sanderson took away the paint and the Lady Mustangs hung on for a 60-55 victory over Hays, the No. 6 squad in Class 4A-I.
Backes opened the contest with a pair of buckets, but the Lady Indians answered with a slew of forced turnovers and seven points off them to go up 7-4. Following the initial six-turnover burst, Central calmed down and used a trey by Ward to grab a 16-14 cushion going into the second quarter.
Hays stayed to within 22-20, but Sanderson scored four of her career-high eight points in the second frame, sparking a 7-0 run to balloon the advantage to 29-22. However, Hays had the answer, closing the first half in a similar fashion, knotting up the score at 29-29 at halftime.
The third essentially was a stalemate, with the Hays trailing 43-41 after three quarters. The Lady Indians went ahead with 6:35 to play, 46-45. Ward, the senior, made experienced shots, connecting on three triples and propelling Central to a 56-49 advantage. Ward ended up with 14 points, earning the Salina Ortho Player of the Game.
Backes poured in a team-high 18 for Central (10-3, 3-2), which won its eighth contest in the last nine tries. Hays (8-2) was paced by Savannah Schneider with 21. Salina Central has the week off before playing Newton at the Brickhouse on Tuesday. Pregame starts at 5:45 on Sports Radio 1150 KSAL.
SALINA CENTRAL 62, HAYS 48
Going into the contest, Salina Central was a bit worried about energy. The Mustangs were coming off a record 13th SIT title, and it appeared to show as the Mustangs were behind 15-14 after one quarter.
Central put the Indians away with the starts of the second and third periods.
The Mustangs started the second frame with a 7-0 spurt to jump out front 21-15. Hays trimmed the deficit to 21-19, but junior Mark Grammer ignited a 12-3 finish, allowing the Mustangs to go into the locker room with a 33-22 cushion.
Salina Central went for the knockout punch in the third, blowing by Hays on a 10-2 explosion, increasing the lead to 43-24 with 5:28 left in the quarter.
Grammer matched his career high for the third time, scoring 16 points and pulling down many rebounds to earn the Salina Ortho Player of the Game honors. Senior Ethan Speer had a game-high 17 points and junior Harper Williams chipped in 11.
Central (10-3) picked up its fourth consecutive win, headed into the contest against Newton on Tuesday.