By BRETT MARSHALL
On a night when neither team could find its way to hitting on all offensive cylinders and on a night when the ball seemed as slippery as the streets outside, the Garden City High School boys basketball team found a way, an inside way as it turned out, to defeat Holcomb's Longhorns, in the much-anticipated, first-time meeting between the two Finney County schools.
It wasn't pretty, it wasn't textbook basketball, at least that's the way the two head coaches — Jacy Holloway of Garden City and Chad Novack of Holcomb — saw it.
"It's a big confidence thing for us," Holloway said after the Buffaloes handed the Longhorns a stinging 41-28 loss at the Garden City Community College Dennis Perryman Athletic Complex to complete the three-day Clarion Inn Southwest Classic. "As a staff, we knew it was important to get a win. We're not into moral victories anymore."
It was the inside game of a pair of 6-4 frontcourt players for the Buffs that made the difference in the game.
Senior Braden Taylor, perhaps playing his best game of the Classic, finished with a game-high 11 points and also grabbed six rebounds. Sophomore Austin Terpstra provided the other inside effort, scoring eight points and grabbing a similar number of rebounds.
"We felt like we needed to get them involved and to take advantage with our size," Holloway said.
For Novack, the Longhorns' first-year coach, it was an otherwise forgettable game.
The Longhorns hit just 10-of-42 field goals (24 percent), only 1-of-9 from 3-point range (11 percent) and were guilty of 21 turnovers against a tenacious Garden City defense. The teams battled to a 29-29 standoff in the rebounding battle.
"It was just a lack of offensive execution on our part," Novack said. "We played good defense, but our offense was non-existent. I don't know if it was the jitters of the anticipation of the game or what. But we've got some work to do with our offense. We acted like we didn't know our plays."
Holcomb's defense caused plenty of problems for the Buffs, though. Garden City committed 17 turnovers of their own, hit just 10-of-22 free throws and struggled to get out of the gate at the game's outset. They did, however, hit 46 percent of their field goals (15-of-33) but had just a single 3-pointer.
For Garden City's Taylor, the victory and the play of he and Terpstra were important to the team's success.
"It feels good just to get a win, and it feels strange that it was like a rivalry game even though we've never played," Taylor said. "Coach (Holloway) wanted us to get the ball inside more and I think we started doing that more at the start of the second half."
There were three critical stretches that decided the game, the last two having the most impact.
After trailing 9-5 at the end of the first quarter, and then down by eight, 13-5, early in the second quarter, the Buffs went on a 12-0 run to take a 17-13 lead late in the second quarter before Max Ramsey's follow shot just before the halftime buzzer made it a 17-15 Garden City lead at intermission.
When the teams came back out for the start of the third quarter, Garden City continued its blitz. Over the first 3:37, they outscored Holcomb, 9-2, and found themselves up 26-17, eventually stretching it to 30-19 before settling for a 30-23 lead heading to the fourth quarter.
A Terpstra basket and Jake Curran's only 3-pointer of the game made it 35-23 early in the fourth before Aaron Hernandez trimmed the lead to eight with a pair of baskets, the last one at the 6:27 mark. That would be the closest the Longhorns would get. Four turnovers and numerous missed shots prevented the 'Horns from cutting into the Buffs' advantage.
Only a free throw by Heath Tucker with 1:40 kept Holcomb from being shutout over the final 6:15 of the game. Garden City, despite missing seven free throws in the final period, finished the game off with four free throws over the final minute.
"I thought we were pretty good on the defensive end most of the night, especially in our halfcourt," Holloway said. "It was a great atmosphere. Holcomb played hard, give them credit. They never quit. I thought both teams put a lot of pressure on the ball. The Holcomb kids know how to play and Novack will get them ready to play."
The Longhorns' struggling offense produced just six points from Tyler LaSalle and Tucker, while the frontcourt of Ramsey, Shane Bennett and Andrew Homer combined for only six points.
In the afternoon game, it was highly-ranked Del City, Okla., rolling past Pueblo (Colo.) East, 56-33, to complete a three-game sweep of the Classic.
Garden City (1-2) will travel to Liberal on Friday and Saturday to compete in the Congestoga Classic. They play at 4 p.m. Friday against Bartlesville, Okla., and then at 3 p.m. Saturday against Lawton, Okla. That will close out their pre-Christmas break schedule. They open Western Athletic Conference play on Jan. 3 at Dodge City in a game that will be played at the United Wireless Arena.
Holcomb, meanwhile, will open their Great West Activities Conference schedule on Friday with a home game against defending Class 3A state champion Scott City.
Garden City (41)
Riggs 1-4 0-0 2, Holguin 2-3 1-3 5, Coyle 0-1 3-5 3, Banner 1-1 0-0 2, Terpstra 4-10 0-0 8, Curran 3-9 2-6 9, Taylor 4-5 3-6 11, Ensz 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 15-33 10-22 41.
Cox 0-3 2-2 2, LaSalle 2-10 2-2 6, Hernandez 2-4 0-0 4, Homer 1-6 0-0 2, Tucker 2-7 1-2 6, Gilbert 2-2 0-0 4, Thomas 0-1 0-0 0, Bennett 0-3 2-3 2, Ramsey 1-6 0-0 2. Totals 10-42 7-9 28.
Garden City 5 12 13 11 -- 41
Holcomb 9 6 8 5 -- 28
3-point goals--Garden City 1-6 (Riggs 0-1, Coyle 0-1, Curran 1-4), Holcomb 1-9 (Cox 0-1, LaSalle 0-3, Tucker 1-4, Thomas 0-1). Rebounds--Garden City 29 (Terpstra 8), Holcomb 29 (Ramsey 5). Turnovers--Garden City 17, Holcomb 21. Fouls--Garden City 12, Holcomb 21. Fouled out--Holcomb (Tucker).