By BRETT MARSHALL
In more ways than one, Friday was a "Banner" night for the Garden City Buffaloes boys basketball team at the New Garden.
The Buffs' heart-stopping 40-37 victory over rival Dodge City in the championship game of the Class 6A sub-state provided memories that might last a lifetime. On a night when it could have been either "third time's the charm" or "three strikes and you're out," the Buffs came up with the former.
It was Bo Banner, a 6-1 senior, who led the way with his scoring (16 points, including three 3-pointers), providing the Buffs with their biggest win in over a half decade.
There was senior Evan Riggs, who came off the bench and played critical minutes down the stretch, hitting 1-of-2 free throws with 36 seconds left in the game and then making perhaps the biggest block of the season when he swatted away a 3-point attempt by Dodge's Jordan Doan with five seconds left that would have tied the game.
There was senior Austin Terpstra grabbing the final loose ball rebound after another Dodge desperation shot at 0:02 from the baseline that preserved the victory as time ran out.
Throw in junior Hunter Delgado's 3-pointer and two clutch charity shots in the final four minutes and Tristan Nanninga's solid floor game at point guard, and you have what coach Jacy Holloway said was his team's biggest effort, and win, of the season.
"I think down the stretch we just stayed in the moment and didn't think about winning or losing," Holloway said amidst a big celebration on the floor afterward. "The seniors came up big, but everybody that was out there did something big in the game."
This game, unlike the previous two Dodge City 15-point victories, was more like a pair of heavyweights matching punch for punch and seeing who would be standing at the end.
It's no secret that the Red Demons have had the Buffs' number on the basketball floor over the past decade, and this game provided Garden City with just its second win over their Western Athletic Conference rival in recent memory.
"It's the biggest game of the year, our last time to play here and we wanted everyone to see the real Garden City team show up," Riggs said. "The other games against Dodge, we didn't show up, but this time we did. It's a great feeling to be going to state, and especially sweet to beat Dodge."
In a typical Dodge-Garden battle, there were not a lot of points put up on the scoreboard.
Garden City led throughout, with Dodge only having the upper hand once, 28-27, at the 6:13 mark of the fourth quarter after overcoming a three-point deficit (27-24) at the end of the third quarter. The Buffs led 8-4 after one quarter and 19-15 at halftime.
Every time it appeared that Dodge was getting its moxie back, the Buffs took it right back with a big play, whether a key bucket, a free throw, forcing a turnover — it simply was many different plays that sparked the Buffs' play down the final minutes.
"I think we just stuck with the game plan better than we had before," Banner said. "We rebounded better (26-25 edge), and I think getting that early lead was big. There wasn't as much pressure on us, and we had a huge crowd and the best support we've had all year."
Of the 13 fourth-quarter points the Buffs scored, eight came from their seniors — five by Banner, a field goal by Terpstra and Riggs' free throw. Delgado came up big with a dagger 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3:55 showing that broke a 31-31 deadlock.
Dodge's 6-4 senior post Matt Goedeken, who had been a thorn in the Buffs' side in the previous two games (30 points), hit a pair of free throws at the 2:59 mark. But Goedeken was held in check all night by a stifling Garden defensive effort. Goedeken went 4-of-8 from the charity stripe for his only points and had just two field goal attempts.
"I just thought we played with a lot more aggressiveness and that was a big thing," Holloway said. "We didn't settle for shooting threes all night (5-of-10), but we did hit some. I thought we got some other good shots that didn't fall, too, but we got good looks."
Banner provided the Buffs with a 3-point lead with a driving layup at the 2:06 mark only to have Jace Larson answer for the Demons with a 12-footer in the lane with 0:57 seconds showing, making it 36-35. Delgado made his two free throws with 0:54 seconds on the clock and Riggs hit the first of his two at the 0:36 mark, making it 39-35. The Demons' Austin Weiser, who finished with a team-high 14 points, hit a driving layup with 0:18 seconds to go, and Banner was fouled with 0:15 remaining and made 1-of-2, giving the Buffs the 3-point margin.
On the final trip down the court, the Demons swung the ball around the top of the key, Doan appeared to slip free, but Riggs was right there, and skied to block the shot at 0:05. Somehow, the loose ball ended up in the Demons' baseline corner and Larson tried a desperation shot that came up short, with Terpstra rebounding and knocking it out to midcourt as the buzzer sounded.
"He pump faked, and I knew he was going to shoot it," Riggs said. "I just was able to get there and make the play. I thought everybody played great defense tonight and that was the difference."
Nothing looked to be the same for Dodge City compared to its two earlier convincing wins against the Buffs. The Demons had shot 61 percent from the field and 71 percent from the free throw line in those wins. But Friday night, it was like an icebox for Dodge — hitting 13-of-31 field goals (41.9 percent) and only 9-of-18 at the free throw line. The Buffs, meanwhile, struggled shooting, too. They were 13-of-38 (34.2 percent) and 9-of-14 (64.2 percent) at the line. In one of their best games taking care of the ball, the Buffs were guilty of only eight turnovers while the Demons turned it over 12 times, including eight in the first half.
"Getting off to a good start was the biggest thing," Holloway said. "We always seem to be trying to catch up to them, but it wasn't the case tonight."
In addition to Banner's 16 points, Delgado finished with 10 for the Buffs, who improved to 15-7 for the season. It is the most wins since the team won 15 in 2003, when they placed third in the state tournament. Larson joined Weiser in double figures with 10 points. The Red Demons finish the campaign at 13-8.
The Buffs will be either the No. 5 seed and face Derby on Wednesday, or the No. 6 sieed, and face either Shawnee Mission East or Wichita North. Pairings and game times were to be posted today after 10 a.m. on the Kansas State High School Activities Association website at www.kshsaa.org.
Dodge City 4 11 9 13 -- 37
Garden City 8 11 8 13 -- 40
Dodge City (13-8) — Taylor 0-1 0-0 0, Oldham 0-1 0-0 0, Gross 3-7 0-1 6, Weiser 4-7 4-4 14, Doan 0-2 0-2 0, Newton 1-2 1-2 3, Larson 5-9 0-1 10, Goedeken 0-2 4-8 4. Totals 13-31 9-18 37.
Garden City (15-7) — Delgado 2-7 4-4 10, Riggs 0-0 1-2 1, Hernandez 0-1 0-0 0, Nanninga 0-1 1-2 1, Banner 5-12 3-4 16, Keller 0-1 0-0 0, Terpstra 3-9 0-1 6, Parr 2-2 0-0 4, Tramp 1-5 0-1 2. Totals 13-38 9-14 40.
3-point goals--Dodge City 2-6 (Gross 0-1, Weiser 2-3, Doan 0-1, Goedeken 0-1), Garden City 5-10 (Delgado 2-3, Hernandez 0-1, Banner 3-6). Rebounds--Dodge City 25 (Gross 6, Weiser 6), Garden City 26 (26 (Terpstra 6). Turnovers--Dodge City 12, Garden City 8. Fouls--Dodge City 15, Garden City 17. Fouled out--none.