By BRETT MARSHALL
After watching a 13-point second quarter lead disappear by halftime, Garden City Buffaloes boys basketball coach Jacy Holloway had likely seen enough.
And he told his Buffaloes in no uncertain terms at the intermission that if things didn't change, the season was about to come to an abrupt end.
The message, for the most part, came across loud and clear, and the Buffs responded with a strong second-half effort, resulting in a 56-45 victory over Wichita South (2-19) on Wednesday in Class 6A sub-state action at the New Garden.
The victory puts the Buffs (14-7) into Friday's 7 p.m. championship game against Dodge City (43-36 winner over Maize), and they will host the third meeting this season between the two Western Athletic Conference rivals to determine who advances to next Wednesday's Class 6A state tourney at Koch Arena in Wichita.
"I would characterize the speech as a doozy," said senior forward Austin Terpstra, who finished with game-highs for the Buffs in both scoring (15) and rebounds (six). "He was trying to spark a fire under us and he told us he wasn't ready to be done with the season. I think he challenged the seniors and it seemed to click with us."
The Buffs had led 16-10 after one quarter and expanded the advantage to 27-14 with 5:31 left in the half. Then things unraveled as South mounted a comeback behind the yeoman effort of 6-6 junior Jordan Moore, who resembled Superman at times, minus the cape.
All Moore did was score 17 points and grab nine rebounds in the first half, en route to a 28-point, 14-rebound showcase.
"I was looking for our guys to have nerves of steel tonight," Holloway said. "But we didn't have that this game. I thought our scoring (early) and spread-wise we were doing a good job, but getting loose balls nad rebounds was a big issue."
It certainly was, as the Titans, who came in with just two wins for the season, had a 16-12 edge on the boards at the break. By the game's end, the Buffs owned a 30-23 victory in rebounding.
The Buffs showed a bit of rustiness after an eight-day layoff from when they concluded the regular season with a 63-34 pounding of Liberal, but Holloway refused to blame the time off for what happened on the court.
"It was a long time between games, too long," Holloway said. "But it wasn't a rusty offense, it was a rusty effort. It's a must-win from here on out. It's all about winning right now. Or you go home."
South took a brief lead at the outset of the third quarter, 34-32. From there, the Buffs finished the period on a 15-5 run to go up 47-39. The Titans could never close the gap to less than six, 47-41 and the Buffs scored the game's final six points to close it out.
One of the big emotional boosts for the Buffs came at the buzzer to end the third quarter, when Emilio Parr hurled a desperation shot from the deep left side and it swished through as the clock went to 0:00. That moved them from a five-point to an eight-point advantage.
"It was huge," said Holloway of Parr's shot. Parr finished the game with 13 points, hitting 6-of-8 shots in one of his best performances of the season. "It got the crowd back into the game and we needed that support. I think the early start confused some people in town and the crowd was a little sparse at the (6 p.m.) start."
Holloway's halftime encouragement talk seemed to have taken hold, as they owned a 18-7 rebounding advantage, finished with just five turnovers.
"I would call it more a re-focusing conversation," Holloway said of halftime message. "For some, it worked. For others, I'm not so sure. It was almost a long season tonight."
The Buffs shot a respectable 44.2 percent (23-of-52) from the field despite not being able to hit much of anything behind the 3-point arc (2-of-13). And on a night when Tristan Nanninga, Bo Banner and Hunter Delgado combined for just 17 points and were a cumulative 7-of-28 from the field, Terpstra and Parr showed up big in the scoring column.
"Winning a first-round game for the first time feels amazing," Terpstra said. "It's something that hasn't been done in quite awhile (2007). We'll show up ready to play on Friday whether it's Dodge City or Maize."
As it turns out, it will be the Red Demons, who own two 15-point victories over the Buffs (50-35 in mid-December and 57-42 just two weeks ago). Neither game was particularly pretty for the Buffs, and it will take a much different effort to affect a different outcome.
Wichita South 10 20 9 6 -- 45
Garden City 16 14 17 9 -- 56
Wichita South (45) — Martin 2-10 0-0 5, Harris 0-4 0-0 0, Keiswetter 3-7 0-0 8, Moore 12-16 4-6 28, Rogers 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 19-40 4-6 45.
Garden City (56) — Delgado 2-8 2-2 6, Riggs 1-2 0-0 3, Nanninga 2-9 0-0 4, Banner 3-11 1-2 7, Keller 0-0 0-0 0, Terpstra 5-7 5-6 15, Parr 6-8 0-1 13, Tramp 4-7 0-2 8. Totals 23-52 8-13 56.
3-point goals--Wichita South 3-13 (Martin 1-6, Harris 0-4, Keiswetter 2-3), Garden City 2-13 (Delgado 0-4, Riggs 1-1, Nanninga 0-4, Banner 0-3, Parr 1-1). Rebounds--Wichita South 23 (Moore 14), Garden City 30 (Terpstra 6). Turnovers--Wichita South 10, Garden City 5. Fouls--Wichita South 11, Garden City 5. Fouled out--none.