By BRETT MARSHALL
LIBERAL — Let it be said that winning on the road at Liberal is never easy for the Garden City Buffaloes.
It was just a year ago at the end of the season, when the Redskins took the Buffs to the cleaners.
But on Tuesday night, the Buffs had, literally, a "banner" night, as Bo Banner scored 16 points to pace his team to a rousing 63-60 overtime victory against the Redskins.
With it, the Buffs improved their season record to 7-2 overall and 2-1 in the WAC, and they head to Hays High on Friday. That game is even bigger after Great Bend's stunning upset of the Indians on Tuesday night.
"We're getting contributions from so many different people than we've had in the past," said an exhausted but happy GCHS coach Jacy Holloway. "This was a tough, tough win, and we knew it would be that because of the way Liberal plays. They're so athletic, they get up and down the floor, play aggressive. But I thought we really battled tonight."
The game was tied at 54 at the end of regulation after the Buffs had rallied from a 54-50 deficit in the final 1:54 of the fourth quarter, with Banner cashing in a pair of free throws with 55 seconds left.
Both teams fumbled plays down the final minute of regulation, with Liberal missing a potential winning shot by JJ Lewis at 0:02.
In the four-minute extra period, the Buffs led from the tipoff, when Evan Riggs knocked in two free throws just five seconds in. Banner made a driving basket at the 2:28 mark for a 58-54 lead, and Lewis countered with a layup at 2:04.
Emilio Parr got a great pass from Tristan Nanninga for a bucket at 1:30 before the Redskins made their final push to get the game tied at 60. William Ross scored on a drive to the bucket and Lewis made two charity shots with 1:19 remaining.
At the 1:14 mark, Banner was fouled by Ross, and made one of two. A Liberal miss with 40 seconds to go, and it was Banner again getting the decisive basket on a drive to the hole.
Liberal missed two more attempts in the wild flurry at the finish, and Parr grabbed the final rebound of the night after Lewis' miss on an inbounds pass with 0:01 showing.
After trailing through the first quarter and a half, the Buffs got their first lead of the game at 23-21 and were up by a single point, 26-25, at intermission.
"It felt like an uphill battle all the way," Holloway said. "I told the kids that there would be flows in the game where we might have a big lead, they might have a big lead, but the way they play, it gives you a chance to come back."
The Buffs found themselves on the short end of the scoreboard again in the second half, trailing by as many as nine, 38-29, in the third quarter before ending the period down by six, 46-40.
Lewis was a thorn in the side of the Buffs all night, as the 6-3 forward scored a game-high 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Redskins. He was the lone Liberal player to reach double figures.
The Buffs, meanwhile, were balanced in the scoring output, as Hunter Delgado, with three 3-pointers in the final half, added 14, and Nanninga chipped in with 10. Caleb Tramp contributed eight points and nine boards off the bench, and Riggs was 4-of-4 at the free throw line. Austin Terpstra had six points in limited playing time, still nursing a sore ankle that was injured in Friday's win over Great Bend.
"When we get contributions from everyone, I think people will really see what this team can do," Holloway said. "They're starting to reflect my personality. They were out there diving for loose balls, battling for rebounds, playing tough defense. That's what I want to see. I want to see them scrapping. That's the way I played. That's what I expect."
The Buffs did turn the ball over 17 times against Liberal's pressure defense, but the Redskins committed 15 of their own miscues. The Buffs hit 23-of-47 field goals for 49 percent while Liberal was just 22-of-55 for 40 percent.
"It's fun to see the kids do things that we work on and have them contribute to us getting a big win," Holloway. "It's another step in the right direction for us."
Garden City 11 15 14 14 9 -- 63
Liberal 15 10 21 6 6 -- 60
Garden City (7-2, 2-1) --Delgado 5-10 1-1 14, Riggs 0-1 4-4 4, Nanninga 4-7 2-4 10, Banner 5-12 6-8 16, Keller 0-1 0-0 0, Terpstra 3-7 0-0 6, Parr 2-2 1-3 5, Love 0-1 0-0 0, Koster 0-0 0-0 0, Tramp 4-6 0-0 8. Totals 23-47 14-20 63.
Liberal (2-7, 0-2) — Lewis 9-15 7-8 26, Frazier 0-4 0-2 0, Stout 2-5 0-0 6, Ross 3-15 1-3 7, Hammond 1-3 0-0 2, Abbott 3-4 0-2 6, Hasik 2-6 0-0 6, Begley 2-2 3-4 7, Coker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-54 11-19 60.
3-point goals--Garden City 3-11 (Delgado 3-6, Riggs 0-1, Banner 0-2, Keller 0-1, Love 0-1), Liberal 5-13 (Lewis 1-1, Frazier 0-1, Stout 2-3, Ross 0-5, Hasik 2-3). Rebounds--Garden City 34 (Tramp 9), Liberal 35 (Lewis 12). Turnovers--Garden City 17, Liberal 15. Fouls--Garden City 14, Liberal 21. Fouled out--Liberal (Stout).