By BRETT MARSHALL
For the second time this season, the Garden City Lady Buffaloes basketball team came up just short of beating the Great Bend Lady Panthers.
Friday night, the Lady Buffs saw an eight-point lead dissipate in the final six minutes, allowing the Lady Panthers to rally for a 48-42 decision at The Garden.
It was a much different game, albeit the same outcome, than the first time the two Western Athletic Conference rivals played on Dec. 6 at the Hays City Shootout.
Then, the Panthers led for most of the game as the Lady Buffs tried to play catch-up, with Great Bend prevailing 52-46 in the Shootout semifinals.
But with 6:02 remaining on Friday, Garden City seemingly had gained the upper hand, leading 42-34 when Tionnia McKee scored on a putback shot.
Amazingly, that was the last time the Lady Buffs scored. The Lady Panthers took advantage of the cold spell with a 14-0 run to close out the key WAC victory.
It was just a year ago that the Lady Buffs swept through the WAC with an unblemished record to win the title, but now they will have to come back later when the two teams meet in Great Bend in February.
Junior Jaymie Bernbeck, the lone double-figure scorer for the Lady Buffs with 14, said the team hit a lull in the final stretch.
"We did a lot of good things, executed like the coach draws it up," Bernbeck said of the stretch in the third quarter that propelled them from a 26-22 deficit to a 37-34 advantage by the end of the third period. "We just didn't have the same energy, it seemed. As a team you never want to see that happen. I thought we came out with more intensity and aggression in the third quarter."
The shooting woes of the Lady Buffs continued into the second game since the holiday break, as they suffered through a chilly 16-of-52 effort from the field for 30.7 percent, and managed just 9-of-17 free throws (53 percent). And in the critical fourth quarter, the Lady Buffs were just 1-of-5, including missing the front end of a 1-and-1.
The frustration of the night was evidenced by the usual sure-shooting of senior point guard Jacksenie Tornero, who was 0 of 4 from the field and just 1 of 3 at the line, after being a 90-percent charity stripe shooter a year ago.
"It wasn't just any one person tonight," said GCHS coach David Upton. "Free throws down the stretch hurt, sure, but in our half court, I thought we lost our patience. Our bounce passes need to be more crisp."
The Lady Buffs' mentor said he thought the energy that the team showed in the third was critical in that rally.
"We moved things around, moved people around and I thought that's the kind of effort we need for 32 minutes," Upton said. "I'm happy with how we played, effort-wise, and if we play that way each game, we'll win the majority of them."
In the fourth quarter, the Lady Buffs could muster only two field goals, finishing 2 of 13 in that eight-minute nightmare.
"We'll just have to come back and get ready for the next one," Upton said.
The first half was typical of the hard-nosed defenses employed by both teams.
Garden City led late in the first quarter, 11-8, before the Lady Panthers finished off the final three minutes with a 5-0 run for a 13-11 advantage.
Great Bend's lead in the second grew to as many as seven, 20-13, but the Lady Buffs answered with a 9-4 run to close out the first half, trailing only 24-22.
With the loss, the Lady Buffs saw their record slip to 5-3 overall and 1-1 in the WAC, while Great Bend improved to 5-1 overall and 1-0 in the WAC. The Lady Buffs will host Liberal at 6 p.m. Tuesday, while Great Bend faces Hays High.
Great Bend 13 11 10 14 -- 48
Garden City 11 11 15 5 -- 42
Great Bend (48) — M. Unruh 0-1 0-0 0, Welch 0-0 1-2 1, Hildebrand 2-3 0-0 4, Kelsie Doll 1-4 2-2 4, Spray 2-7 0-0 6, R. Unruh 0-6 0-2 0, Kaylie Doll 2-3 2-4 6, M. Mauler 2-4 2-2 6, Stueder 4-9 6-9 14, H. Mauler 0-0 0-0 0, Harwood 2-4 1-2 5. Totals 15-41 14-23 48.
Garden City (42) — Padilla 1-5 0-0 2, Dart 1-2 0-0 2, Tornero 0-4 1-3 1, Brunson 0-1 0-0 0, Tempel 4-12 1-6 9, McKee 2-4 2-2 7, Dreiling 0-7 5-6 5, Bernbeck 7-13 0-0 14, Carrillo 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 16-52 9-17 42.
3-point goals--Great Bend 2-6 (Kelsie Doll 0-1, Spray 2-4, Kaylie Doll 0-1); Garden City 1-10 (Dart 0-1, Tornero 0-2, Brunson 0-1, Tempel 0-3, McKee 1-2). Rebounds--Great Bend 34 (Kaylie Doll 6), Garden City 36 (Dreiling 10). Turnovers--Great Bend 25, Garden City 25. Fouls--Great Bend 17, Garden City 19. Fouled out--none.