By BRETT MARSHALL
The Garden City Buffaloes boys basketball team had to overcome some anxious final seconds before hanging on to post a 62-59 victory over Junction City on Thursday in the opening round of the Valley Center January Jam.
Four critical free throws in the final 18.7 seconds, two each by Emilio Parr and Hunter Delgado, enabled the Buffs to finish off what had been a roller-coaster game for both teams, each owning numerous slim leads throughout the game.
The victory sends the Buffs (8-3) into today's semifinal at 6:45 p.m. against Olathe Northwest, a 79-69 winner over Topeka Seaman in the other lower bracket contest.
"The kids are excited, the coaches are excited," GCHS coach Jacy Holloway said. "You don't know good this feels to be on this side of the bracket."
Four turnovers by the Buffs in the final 2 minutes, 10 seconds also kept the Bluejays in the game.
Additionally, in what at times was a 3-point shootout, treys almost proved the undoing for the Buffs. Junction City knocked down 10 3-pointers, while the Buffs were nearly as good, knocking down six from behind the arc.
The Buffs had fallen behind by five, 32-27, at halftime, but answered the break with a 20-13 third-period run, thanks in part to three 3-pointers, two by Tristan Nanninga and one by Delgado.
Garden built its lead in the final quarter to as many as five, the last at 55-50, before the Bluejays came back one more time, taking that one-point lead on a pair of free throws by Cedric Johnson with just more than a minute to play.
Parr, a 38-percent free throw shooter for the season, calmly knocked his two charities. Junction City missed a field goal attempt with seven seconds to go and then Delgado was immediately fouled after grabbing the rebound. He then knocked down his two charities, and then the Buffs defended well a missed trey by Darius Redrick from the right wing.
Holloway said the Buffs executed well down the stretch, noting the made free throws and running several set plays that led to baskets.
"We had several sets that just worked really well," Holloway said. "The boys set some good screens, we had some good screens, and they worked."
In the early going, Junction City took an 11-4 lead before the Buffs rallied to take a 14-12 lead at the end of the first when Austin Terpstra knocked down a three with just 0:03 showing.
The second quarter, again, saw long-range shooting highlight Junction City's effort as they knocked down four treys. That enabled the Bluejays to go in up by that five point margin at halftime.
In the third period, Parr led the way with eight points to get them back into contention and owning that slender one-point lead heading to the fourth period.
"I really thought defensively we did a pretty good against them," Holloway said. "That's far and away the best 3-point shooting they've had all year. Our goal and focus was to keep them out of the paint because that's where they've been good at. So seeing them hit the 3s was just hard to adjust to."
Terpstra led a balanced attack with 13 points while Delgado and Parr added 12 points each. Bo Banner scored nine, and Caleb Tramp got eight points off the bench.
"We're getting a lot of kids into the scoring mix and that's a positive," Holloway said. "I don't think we played as good as we can, but certainly getting this one is big for us."
In Olathe Northwest, the Buffs will see a team that does not have a lot of height, but likes shooting from the perimeter.
"They shoot a lot of threes, a lot," Holloway said. "We'll have to change our game plan for that. They like to spread you out."
A victory in tonight's semifinal would send the Buffs into Saturday's championship game at 7:15 p.m. The third place game will be at 5:30 p.m., also on Saturday.
Junction City 12 20 15 12 -- 59
Garden City 14 13 21 14 -- 62
Junction City (59) — Redrick 3 0-2 9, Thoronton 2 0-0 6, Stepan 7 3-3 18, F. Johnston 4 2-2 13, C. Johnston 5 3-4 13. Totals 21 8-11 59.
Garden City (62) — Delgado 3 4-5 12, Nanninga 2 0-0 6, Banner 3 2-3 9, Terpstra 6 0-0 13, Parr 5 2-4 12, Rodriguez 1 0-0 2, Tramp 4 0-2 8. Totals 24 8-14 62.
3-point goals--Junction City 10 (Redrick 3, Thornton 2, Stepan 1, F. Johnston 3), Garden City 6 (Delgado 2, Banner 1, Terpstra 1). Fouls--Junction City 12, Garden City 9. Fouled out--none.