By BRETT MARSHALL
Home court advantage can be just that, or it can possibly be a team's Waterloo.
Nobody knows that better than Garden City High School boys and girls basketball coaches Jacy Holloway and David Upton.
It was a year ago that the Buffs and Lady Buffs hosted semifinal games in the Class 6A sub-state tournament.
Holloway's boys used the No. 2 overall seed to its advantage, winning both semifinal and championship games to catapult them to the 6A state tournament in Wichita for the first time in six years.
The Lady Buffs, meanwhile, stumbled in a semifinal matchup with Western Athletic Conference rival Dodge City, falling by one point to end what had been the most successful season in school history at 17-4.
Now, the teams have the same opportunity to hold home court and advance when they play host to the respective girls and boys teams from Wichita Northwest on Wednesday at The Garden.
Tip-off for the No. 3-seeded Lady Buffs (12-8) will be at 5 p.m. against the Lady Grizzlies (9-11), who are the No. 6 seed. The boys game for the second-seeded Buffs (12-8), approximately 20 minutes following the conclusion of the girls game, will be against a Grizzlies team that has struggled to a 5-15 season record.
The Lady Buffs won their final two games of the season, both on the road, against Hays and Liberal following another one-point home loss to the Lady Red Demons of Dodge City.
Upton's squad has averaged 53.2 points, while giving up 40.4 points this season.
Leading the Lady Buffs in scoring has been 5-foot-11 junior Jaymie Bernbeck, averaging 15.0 points and 5.5 rebounds, while senior Taryn Tempel, who late in the season became the school's all-time leading scorer and then went over the 1,000 career point total (1,001), is averaging 11.5 points and 3.7 rebounds. She averages 2.3 steals and 2.0 assists per game, as well.
For Upton, he has two game films to gather a scouting report on the Lady Grizzlies.
"It's kind of hard to tell, but they'll play primarily a zone defense, and we've seen two teams play both man-to-man and zone against them, so we'll see how that goes."
Upton likes the way the Lady Buffs closed out the season to secure a No. 3 seed, winning easily at Hays and at Liberal after a three-game losing streak.
"We're playing good basketball, gelling and coming along nicely," Upton said. "We've been shooting the ball better, and getting good shots."
As always, the Lady Buffs hang their hat on their defense, and they limited Hays and Liberal to a combined 55 points.
"We've been playing defense in good position, and the girls have been getting to the help position better," Upton said.
Northwest's Lady Grizzlies are led by 5-8 junior guard Cassie Pauls, who averages 10.8 points, 1.6 assists and 1.9 steals per game. Calea Carr, a 5-9 senior, is next in scoring at 7.5 points and is the team's leading rebounder at 5.4.
The Lady Grizzlies, who compete in the Wichita City League, average 39.8 points while giving up 43.9 points.
A win by the Lady Buffs would put them in Friday's championship game, where they take on the winner of Wednesday's Maize (16-4) vs. Campus (6-14) contest. If Maize wins, they would host the Lady Buffs. If Campus were to win, the Lady Buffs would get home court. State tournaments begin on March 12 at Koch Arena in Wichita.
For Holloway's squad, getting home court will once again provide the Buffs with being able to avoid the lengthy travel into Wichita.
"I see home court always as an advantage," Holloway said. "With the way the weather's been, it's nice not to be on the road. We've been on the road a lot here in the last month of the season, so to be home is really nice."
In the Grizzlies, the Buffs will find a team that has struggled at times, but played a number of top teams close, including a 10-point loss to state-ranked Wichita East and a five-point setback to Wichita Heights. The Grizzlies come in on a six-game losing streak, but that doesn't fool Holloway.
"You can't take anybody lightly at this time of the year," Holloway said of the one-and-done postseason. "They're talented and they always play hard."
The Grizzlies have had a tough year in addition to the on-court losses, including the month-long suspension of assistant coach Carl Caldwell.
Caldwell was suspended Jan. 30, according to a report in The Wichita Eagle. No reason was given for Caldwell's suspension, but he was just reinstated Feb. 25 by the Wichita School District. During the season, five players have left the Northwest team. Two seniors quit the team early in the season, and two other players transferred to other schools. Head coach Chris Collins has already announced his resignation effective at the end of this season.
"No matter what they've had going on, I expect them to come and play their hardest, and give the best effort," Holloway said of the Grizzlies.
The Buffs, meanwhile, have had somewhat of a roller-coaster season. They have, however, won six of their last nine games, including a home win over Dodge City (60-51) and a season-ending road win at Liberal (55-47).
"We've been just good enough to get the No. 2 seed and play at home, and at this stage that's all a coach can ask," Holloway said. "I like the way we've played for the most part, but obviously we will need to be playing at our best if we want an opportunity to get back to Wichita."
Junior forward Caleb Tramp leads the team in scoring (11.6) and rebounding (6.0), while senior guard Tristan Nanninga is second at 9.4 points. Three others average just over six points, including seniors Hunter Delgado (6.7) and Mitchell Hernandez (6.3) and sophomore Jared Koster (6.2).
"Northwest plays a lot of different defenses, so we've got to be ready for just about anything," Holloway said. "We've had a week to get rested, are pretty healthy and the boys are looking forward to the game."