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Hayes leads Highlanders to victory over Nitro

Jan. 31, 2012 @ 11:40 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Huntington High's Toquan Hayes has more fun walking the halls at school these days. A four-game winning streak will change the attitude students have about a team.

"It feels good," Hayes said Tuesday night after he scored a game-high 25 points to power the HHS boys' basketball team past Nitro, 70-54, for its fourth consecutive victory. "No one at school's asking what happened. Now in the hall you hear "Way to go, keep it up."'

Included in a 3-7 start for the young Highlanders were 2-point losses to Greenbrier East and Woodrow Wilson and 3-pointers to Capital and St. Albans.

"The kids are growing up," Huntington coach Ron Hess said. "I knew it would take a while. They're getting confidence and showing maturity."

That wasn't the case in the first half as Nitro (5-9) led 17-11 after one period and 30-28 at the break. In the second half, it was all Highlanders (7-7) behind Hayes and a solid effort from Arick Nicks off the bench with 16 points.

"Coach was disappointed in our performance," Hayes said. "We know he doesn't like that. We came out lazy. It was a wakeup call. We took what he said to heart. We came out the second half and played Huntington basketball. We d'd (defensed) up and got out on the break. You can't run with us."

As Hess saw it, the Highlanders quit gambling on defense and hit the backboards in the second half. For Nitro, that meant one shot and back on defense. The Wildcats had trouble there, too, as Huntington's transition game gave the home side numbers on nearly every possession.

"I wasn't happy with the defense," Hess admitted. "You don't always shoot well, but you can play defense."

Hayes, who entered the game with a 14.4 average, did his damage on jumpers and drives to the basket where he either converted or dished off to an open teammate after he drew an extra defender.

"I got creative," Hayes said of his moves to the basket. "You go to the hole hard and strong and finish."

"He can do that and we expect that," Hess said of Hayes. "He can take over a game when you're not shooting great. A good player make the other players around him better."

Hayes and Hess said Nicks came up big when needed.

"It's a big game for him," Hayes said. "Let him get in and contribute."

"We started to rebound better when he went in," Hess said of Nicks. "We were getting beat on the boards early. He has a great touch, too."

Huntington is back in action Thursday at home against Parkersburg.

"We're a young team," Hayes said. "The young guys are getting used to playing varsity ball. It's not JV anymore."

NITRO 17 13 9 15 -- 54: Siriani 5 3-6 16, Eich 1 0-1 2, Neff 2 0-0 4, Barton 0 1-2 1, Clark 3 3-3 9, Ferrari 3 0-1 7, Perry 6 3-4 15. Totals: 20 10-17 54.

HUNTINGTON 11 17 21 21 -- 70: Hayes 11 3-8 25, Wooding 3 3-5 10, Miller 2 0-0 4, Tubbs 2 3-3 7, Brown 2 0-0 6, Sayles 0 2-2 2, Nicks 6 4-4 16. Totals: 26 15-22 70.

3-point baskets: Nitro 4 (Siriani 3, Ferrari); Huntington 3 (Brown 2, Wooding).