By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
How many homecomings have ended in a loss to Hays after a fourth quarter Redskin lead was erased?
It appeared another chapter in that book was being written Friday until Jade Cathey hit a 3-pointer as time expired to give the Liberal Redskins a 44-41 victory at the Big House.
Hay erased a five-point Redskin lead in the final 56.7 seconds of the game when Trey Hermann hit three pointer and Christopher Schultz hit a runner in the lane to tie the game.
With eight seconds to play, Cathey took the ball and charged downcourt. He looked to pass to Tyson Deaton or DeVondre Livingston underneath the basket, but the Hays defense collapsed into the lane, and no one was guarding Cathey.
He took the final two seconds to calmly locate the basket and take a jumpshot from the three-point line. The buzzer sounded, and the silence in the gym allowed everone to hear the whip of the ball against the net when it sailed right through, never even touching the rim.
Cathey was not much of a factor early but picked up his offense late, scoring 12 in the fourth quarter and 15 in the second half. Cathey didn’t score in the first half.
“Whenever we play Hays, it always seems to come down to the last possession,” Liberal coach Drew Gruver said. “It feels good to be on the right side of the last shot.”
Liberal has played in a number of close calls this year, but lost them until homecoming night. While pink was the color of choice for homecoming in an effort to fight breast cancer, Cathey might have been seeing red after receiving two technicals in Dodge City last week for dunking the ball two times during halftime warm-ups. The senior standout was benched for most of the second half with four fouls after the incident, and Dodge was able to earn a five-point win.
Cathey returned to the court Friday to a resounding applause from the student section when he was announced in the line-up, but two quick fouls sent Cathey to the bench for most of the second quarter.
Without Cathey Livingston became Liberal’s leading scoring threat. Livingston scored six of Liberal’s first 10 points to help the Redskins jump out to a 10-3 lead.
But Hays rallied with a three by Herman and inside baskets from the 6-foot-5 Zach Gaughan. By the end the half, the defenses had taken over and Hays had a 15-14 lead.
“Both teams did a good job of taking away what the other team was trying to do,” Gruver said.
Liberal opened the second half with a 7-0 run including a three by Slader McVey to take a 21-15 lead, but Hays never let the Redskins run away. With 3:31 to play in the third quarter the Indians had tied the game 23-23 and regained a one-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter.
That’s when Cathey took over.
After passing the ball to his open teammates for three quarters, the senior started to slash to the basket. Cathey scored the next seven points for the Redskins including a tough basket underneath where he was fouled in mid-air and still managed to get the shot to fall and added the free throw to give the Redskins a 33-30 lead.
Gaughan added a basket for the Indians and Deaton hit two free throws, and then neither team scored for the next two-and-a-half minutes.
Hays ended the drought with a pair of free throws to cut Liberal’s lead to one with 2:43 to play, but back-to-back baskets by Cathey and Deaton stretched the lead back to five with 2:17 to play.
Hays scored to cut the lead to three, and Deaton hit both shots on a one-and-one opportunity to give the Redskins a five point lead with 56.7 seconds to play.
Hays hit the three and the runner to tie the game and Cathey dropped the three to win the game at the buzzer.
“He hit the last-second shot, but he penetrated and passed the ball tonight,” Gruver said. “He had a solid game throughout. And his teammates did a good job of getting the ball to him inside in the second half. We’ve come together. They are learning how to get each other open.”
Behind Cathey’s 15, Livingston had 12 and Deaton had 10.
The Redskins will step out of Western Athletic Conference action Monday to travel to Oklahoma to face Guymon. Liberal will return to the Big House Saturday to host Great Bend.