Purple's Hays breaks Chiefs' back at horn

Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Veteran official Dick Vogt (right) signals "count the basket" while Slater senior Dustin Hays celebrates his game-winning buzzer-beating jumper.

SLATER -- The Academy Awards won't be announced until Feb. 29, but Hollywood time came early at Slater.

Senior Dustin "Hollywood" Hays, put in an Oscar bid as "best leading man" by knocking down a fadeaway jumper as time expired Tuesday to complete the Wildcats' comeback from an 11-point deficit in the final 2:01 to pull out a 72-71 non-conference victory over Santa Fe.

"Buzzer-beaters are great for one team and bad for the other, and we were on the bad end of it," remarked Chiefs head coach Tom Burton. "That's a game we shouldn't have lost."

"It was just our time, I guess," said Slater head coach Bob Gonzalez, who hadn't beaten Santa Fe since a 68-65 decision in 1998. "We didn't give up. We continued to play defense and continued to rebound."

The Chiefs never trailed in the game until the end, junior Cody Smith making two three-pointers during a 12-6 start. Hays hit twice from outside during the last 32 seconds of the first quarter, which ended up tied, 16-16.

However, Santa Fe kept banging the ball inside -- juniors Clay Michael and Kurtis Gregory combining for 17 first-half points -- to go into the locker room with an eight-point lead when Smith beat the halftime horn from long range.

"When you're 6-foot-5 and 6-4 and they're countering with 5-10 and 6-2, you ought to be able to pound them inside," Burton said. "That's something we definitely have to do."

Freshman Marco Falls scored the 'Cats' first six points of the second half to key a 12-4 run which again evened matters when senior Tyrone Wright posted up down low. Junior Kellen Brandt connected on two baseline jumpers as the Chiefs extended the margin to five points by the end of the period.

Slater went without a field goal over a three-minute stretch early in the fourth frame while Gregory got two buckets and sank four free throws.

"At times we needed to slow the game down and run our offense," Gonzalez noted. "They've got to learn they can't get it all back at one time."

Michael converted four charity shots and two field goals over a minute-and-a-half span and two more freebies by junior Zach Brown gave Santa Fe its biggest lead of the game at 66-55 with 2:20 left. The 'Cats, though, got cranking -- senior Kourtney Wright coming up with a steal on the press and draining a three from the right corner.

"We had way too many turnovers (20), and many of them were unforced," Burton confessed. "It wasn't that hard a (full-court) press."

Slater kept sending the Chiefs to the line, but -- after making 10 straight attempts -- they went cold, missing four of five during a 30-second stretch. Hays, on the other hand, drew fouls on back-to-back three-point shots -- the second a clear flop -- and made all six charities. Smith sank two free throws, but junior Dontrale White -- after missing his six tries from beyond the arc -- fired one in to tie it up with 33 seconds to go.

Senior Corey Wagner and Hays traded freebies, then Brandt toed the stripe with :09.0 showing. He made the first and missed the second, Wright collecting his 10th rebound and fed Hays -- who sped up-court, pulled up at the left elbow and rattled the game-winning shot home.

"You've got to give Slater some credit," Burton declared. "They made their free throws down the stretch and we didn't."

Michael had 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots before he fouled out with 1:03 to go and Gregory and Smith teamed for 29 points for Santa Fe (10-8).

Hays topped all scorers with 25 points as the 'Cats (7-11) won consecutive games for the first time since reaching the Glasgow Tournament finals in early December.

"In January we were at rock bottom," losing eight in a row, Gonzalez reflected. "I was real proud we didn't give up. I think we got back what we had before Christmas."

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