By KLINT SPILLER
Special to The Telegram
HAYS — In order to be the champions, you have to beat the champions.
That's what the Garden City High School girls' basketball team did Friday at Hays.
The Lady Buffaloes (9-1, 4-0 WAC) got a strong performance from their 6-foot-2 senior center Johna McClelland, and the Buffs stampeded over the reigning league champions for a 49-31 victory.
McClelland, a Washburn University signee, towered above Hays High's 5-10 and 5-9 forwards, and she finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and four blocks — one of her best performances of the season.
"This is the way I should be playing every game," McClelland said. My teammates were really looking for me to get the ball, and I just did everything I could to help my team get the win."
Garden City has never won the WAC, and Garden City head coach David Upton said winning the league is on the top of team's list of goals.
"It's on our wall in our locker room," he said. "That was one of the first goals the kids made."
"We definitely want to win WAC and go to state," she said. "It's really important for us to stay together as a team and keep working hard every day."
Defeating the reigning champions in their home gym is a good step toward that goal.
McClelland was open partly due to Hays High's extra attention applied to Garden City's leading scorer, junior guard Taryn Tempel.
Tempel, who averages close to 18 points per game, scored just 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting.
"When a team is taking away something else, you've got to find something else to keep it going," Upton said.
The Buffs traded jabs with Hays High early as the lead changed nine times in the first nine minutes.
But then McClelland posted eight points during a 10-1 Garden City run to take a 19-11 lead with two minutes remaining in the first half.
Garden City stretched its lead more and more in the second half, as the Buffs' constant full-court press unraveled Hays High's offense.
The Indians finished with 22 turnovers compared to Garden City's 12.
"We use (the full-court press) because I think defense creates energy," Upton said.
For Hays High, turnovers have been a problem all season.
"We play faster than we are capable of playing," said Hays High head coach Kirk Maska, "and we don't do the little things like catching and ripping through and looking down the court and going and meeting our passes and knowing who to throw to and who not to throw to."
Though Garden City dominated the game, there was one area where the Buffs struggled: rebounding.
Despite being outsized, Hays High grabbed 37 rebounds to Garden City's 21. The Indians finished with 16 offensive rebounds, but fortunately for Garden City, the Indians rarely converted their second-chance opportunities.
"I'm not real happy with that," Upton said. "I knew without looking at the stats that they out rebounded us. We've had a lot of long trips lately. ... I think we are a little bit tired, a little bit jet lagged being on the bus too much. We haven't been as aggressive as we have been."
Hays High senior forward Katelyn Schumacher led her squad in scoring with 14. She also tied with senior forward Taylor Herman for a team-high seven rebounds.
Garden City now has won nine in a row, and a blowout victory on the reigning champions' home court might have been one of the best victories to date.
After falling to Hays High twice last season, McClelland said getting Friday's win was big.
"They won last year," she said. "That was really hard for us to take, because we had a great team last year as well."
Garden City 9 12 12 16 -- 49
Hays 8 7 7 9 -- 31
Garden City — McClelland 16, Tempel 11, Bernbeck 6, Tornero 6, McKee 5, Linenberger 2, Brunson 2, Carrillo 1, Telfair 0.
Hays — Schumacher 14, Gagnon 6, Hearld 3, Gulley 2, Bird 2, Schmeidler 2, Herman 1, Johnson 1, Desbien 0, Werth 0, Braun 0.
Rebounds — Garden City 21 (McClelland 7); Hays 37 (Schumacher 7, Herman 7). Turnovers — Garden City 12, Hays 22. Fouls — Garden City 12, Hays 16. Fouled out — None.