By BRETT MARSHALL
GREAT BEND — Both the Garden City Buffaloes and Great Bend Panthers had recently been playing some of their best basketball of the 2013-14 season.
Both had won four of their previous five games. So when the two Western Athletic Conference rivals got together in Great Bend Friday night, how the third meeting of the season would end up was anybody's guess.
Despite two earlier decisive wins by the Buffs — one at the Hays City Shootout (56-36) in early December, and the other in mid-January at The Garden (53-43), Buffs' coach Jacy Holloway knew the Panthers would present some new challenges on Friday night.
And they certainly got all of that from the suddenly-dangerous Panthers.
In fact, they got more than they could have bargained.
The Panthers won for the fifth time in six games, 48-47, in a score that was close, but not like the one-point squeaker it became.
For the Buffs, it was a sobering setback and ended any slim hopes of chasing Hays for the WAC title. They are now 10-6 overall and 2-3 in the league, while Great Bend improves to 7-9 overall and 1-4 in the WAC.
It was a game that saw some highlights for the Buffs — Caleb Tramp's 19-point, 13-rebound effort — and some lowlights — 20 turnovers and 3-of-10 free throw shooting.
Even Tristan Nanninga's running 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it a one-point loss couldn't erase the foul taste of this game.
The Buffs led 11-10 after one quarter and then went scoreless — yes, an 0-for eight minutes — to fall behind 17-11 at halftime.
"Just kind of like the Dodge City game (9-8 halftime score in January)," Buffs' coach Jacy Holloway said afterward. "That was the low point of the season. This is the second low point of the season."
Down 27-20 entering the fourth quarter, the Buffs then somehow woke up and scored 27 points, more than they had in the previous 24 minutes.
"We finally made layups, finally found the open teammate, made good passes," Holloway said. "Things we weren't doing in the first part of the game."
And then the Buffs had no answer for Great Bend freshman Kody Crosby, who erupted for 28 points on a blistering 10-of-11 shooting from the field and 7 of 9 at the free throw line.
"Just killed us, but we knew he was a good player and was getting better," Holloway said of the 6-foot-3 rookie. "This is kinda like the roller-coaster we've been on all season with the lineup, at practices and in games. We've had a tough time with consistency."
Holloway said what Great Bend did Friday night that was different than the previous two meetings was finding a teammate and getting the ball to them for a good look, or heading to the free-throw line.
The Panthers then took advantage, making 17-of-32 free throws off 25 fouls by the Buffs.
Holloway did credit his squad for making a valiant run down the stretch, closing an 11-point deficit in the final 1:26 to within three with 21 seconds showing.
But Great Bend managed to knock down three charities in the closing seconds to give itself just enough padding to survive the furious comeback.
"We did a much better job of pressing, forcing turnovers late than we did early," Holloway said.
While the Buffs were hitting just 20-of-49 field goals (40.8 percent), the Panthers were 14 of 29 for 48 percent. The foul disparity couldn't be ignored — 25 to 15 — and the 32 free throws shot by Great Bend to just 10 for the Buffs.
Turnovers were once again a big setback for the Buffs, committing 20 miscues while forcing Great Bend into 21.
The Buffs get little rest as they travel down U.S. Highway 50 seven miles to Holcomb tonight to face the Longhorns in the third annual ArkRiver Rivalry today. Game time for the boys is approximately 8 p.m.
Garden City 11 0 9 27 -- 47
Great Bend 10 7 10 21 -- 48
Garden City (10-6, 2-3) — Tramp 9-18 1-6 19, Delgado 2-5 0-0 6, Olivas 1-4 0-0 3, Koster 1-5 2-4 4, Hernandez 2-8 0-0 4, Nanninga 5-7 0-0 11, Rodriguez 0-1 0-0 0, Rincones 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-49 3-10 47.
Great Bend (7-9, 1-4) — Westhoff 0-0 0-0 0, Ibarra 1-3 5-6 8, Crosby 10-11 7-9 28, Beck 1-4 2-9 4, Sullivan 0-1 0-0 0, Reiser 1-4 1-2 4, Bryant 0-1 1-2 1, Warren 0-4 1-2 1, Wondra 1-1 0-2 2. Totals 14-29 17-32 48.
3-point goals--Garden City 4-17 (Delgado 2-4, Olivas 1-4, Koster 0-2, Hernandez 0-5, Nanninga 1-1, Rincones 0-1), Great Bend 3-9 (Ibarra 1-2, Crosby 1-2, Beck 0-1, Sullivan 0-1, reiser 1-3). Rebounds--Garden City 30 (Tramp 13), Great Bend 25 (Crosby 5); Turnovers--Garden City 20, Great Bend 21. Fouls--Garden City 25, Great Bend 15. Fouled out--Garden City (Tramp).