By AUSTIN COLBERT
Special to The Telegram
HAYS — The bad part about having played a team close on two occasions already is that team will likely have your full attention come Round 3.
This proved to be the case when the Garden City boys' basketball team fell short in its upset bid of undefeated Hays High, ranked No. 3 in Class 5A, 44-39 on Friday at Hays High School. Hays beat Garden City 57-53 on Dec. 7 in the championship game of the Hays City Shootout and again on Jan. 17, 47-33 in Garden City.
"I knew they would be ready for us," Garden City coach Jacy Holloway said. "We did give them two close games so they weren't going to overlook us. No chance of that. But I think our kids came out focused and we did a better job at the start of matching their runs."
The only time Garden City (11-8, 3-4) looked outmatched came late in the second quarter when Hays High (17-0, 6-0) took a 26-19 lead after back-to-back buckets by junior post player Brady Werth. The Indians led 26-21 at halftime.
Hays High opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer from senior Kade Parker to push its lead to eight points when the Buffaloes started to take control. Garden City ended the quarter on a 5-0 run to tie the game at 33 going into the fourth quarter, and a steal and dunk by junior Caleb Tramp gave the Buffaloes their first lead since it was 9-8.
"Three times now we've played them. I don't care what you say, you play somebody three times, that team you are playing starts thinking after a while, 'I can do this. I can guard this guy,'" Hays High coach Rick Keltner said. "We surely hurt ourselves with our lack of patience on offense a few times, but I think we kept attacking, rightfully or wrongfully so. We made some big plays and made some free throws toward the end."
Following Tramp's dunk that gave Garden City a 35-33 lead, Hays High answered with a 3-pointer by senior Lane Clark, his only made field goal of the game.
Points were tough to come by the final four minutes. Tramp got a second-chance basket with 2:20 to play to cut the Hays High lead to 38-37. Werth added three free throws and the Indians led 41-37 with less than a minute to play when Tramp made another big play, this time a steal and dunk to make it a two-point game with 18.2 seconds remaining.
Garden City's upset hopes ended when Tramp was whistled for an intentional foul with 7.5 seconds to play, leading to two more Werth free throws.
"(Tramp) was able to excite our crowd a little bit and take away from theirs. He did a good job," Holloway said. "I think we could have gotten him the ball a little better offensively. Defensively he didn't play much in the first half because he got in foul trouble again. He's got in foul trouble all three times."
Tramp finished with 10 points, six coming in the fourth quarter. Senior Tristan Nanninga led the team with 12 points.
Werth led all players with 18 points, 13 coming in the first half. He was the only player in double figures for Hays High.
The Buffs close out the regular season with a 7:30 p.m. Tuesday game at Liberal and then will find out later in the week where they will be seeded for the Class 6A sub-state tournament, which for them begins March 6.
Garden City 13 8 12 6 -- 39
Hays High 15 11 7 11 -- 44
Garden City (39) — Tristan Nanninga 5 2-4 12, Caleb Tramp 5 0-0 10, Koster 4 0-0 8, Hernandez 2 0-0 5, Rodriguez 1 0-0 2, Parr 1 0-0 2. Totals 20 2-4 39.
Hays (44) — Brady Werth 6 6-8 18, Windholz 3 0-2 8, Nunery 2 0-0 5, Parker 2 0-0 5, Clark 1 1-2 4, Riedel 1 0-0 2, Niernberger 0 2-2 2. Totals 15 9-14 44.
3-points goals — Garden City 1-7 (Hernandez), Hays 5-16 (Windholz 2). Rebounds — Garden City 18, Hays 24. Turnovers — Garden City 11, Hays 13.