By BRETT MARSHALL
Records for the Garden City High School girls basketball program are a little sketchy, but it is believed that the current 4-1 record for the Lady Buffs is the best start in school history.
The previous two seasons, coach David Upton's squad have gone into the holiday break with 3-2 marks. Telegram records dating back to 1999 would indicate that no other GCHS girls squad has been better than 4-1.
Tuesday night's final pre-holiday home game against Dodge City (6 p.m. tip-off) provides the Lady Buffs several opportunities, not the least of which is to secure its first Western Athletic Conference victory and remain unbeaten on the team's home floor — the New Garden.
The Lady Red Demons will bring a 2-2 record into the rivalry game, and also will have a new face sitting on the bench in coach Kelley Snodgrass, who guided the Holcomb Lady Longhorns for the previous six seasons, where her teams went 84-49.
"You know for sure with Kelley coaching, they'll play hard and do some new things from what they've done in the past," Upton said of Dodge City. "We'll have to be well prepared because I know they will be. We want to protect our home court. We want the girls to take pride in protecting home court."
The Lady Buffs have won four straight after a season-opening road loss to then No. 4-ranked Class 4A Pratt. Since, they've taken wins against Pueblo East (Colo.), Wichita Trinity, Denver South (Colo.) and Dumas, Texas.
"I like the chemistry of the team because they're playing together," Upton said of his team's fast start. "I think we've simplified the offense for them and made it easier to run our sets. This group likes to get out and run, and I think they've done a good job in transition. We've got some kids who see the floor well."
The Lady Buffs are averaging 56.8 points while giving up 47.2 points, a number that Upton hopes to see his team improve upon.
"We're not quite up to speed with the defensive side of things yet," Upton said. "We're not playing as good (defense) as we have in the past. When we look at film, it's taking the proper angles, and rather than forcing somebody to the outside, we've been forcing them to the middle and we need to stop that."
Junior Taryn Tempel leads the team in scoring at 18.8 points, while sophomore Jaymie Bernbeck is the only other double-figure scorer at 11.2 points. Senior center Johna McClelland is close at 9.2 points and leads the team in rebounding at 5.4.
"I still want our offense to be a little sharper, made cuts harder, and we'll just keep working on those fundamentals," Upton said.
With junior Jacksenie Tornero handling the point guard duties this season, Upton said the team has been able to be more of an up-and-down team.
"She gets us into a flow and has been a big benefit to what we've done so far," Upton said of Tornero. "We still want to continue looking to get the ball inside to Johna and Jaymie and be able to finish off plays."
Turnovers, too, remain a concern as the Lady Buffs have averaged 21.6 against just 11.2 assists, while recording nearly 13 steals per game.
After Tuesday's game, the Buffs will be idle until they host Great Bend on Jan. 4.
Notes: Through Friday's games, Hays and Great Bend's girls were both 3-2, while Liberal stood at 2-4. Liberal faces Ulysses on Tuesday night while Great Bend is finished until after the break. Hays plays Pratt on Thursday.