By BRETT MARSHALL
DODGE CITY — It wasn't anything new that coach David Upton had seen before.
Garden City vs. Dodge City, and the Lady Buffs with an early lead
That's what happened last February in Garden City when the Lady Demons garnered a monumental upset in the Class 6A sub-state semifinals to end the Lady Buffs' 2013 season.
So when the Red Demons answered an early Garden City lead and then an 11-point second-half deficit, one could only imagine what was going through Upton's mind.
"Well, we hung in there, and when we had to get something, we did what we needed to do," Upton said after watching his team hold off Dodge City 53-46 in the Western Athletic Conference opener for both teams. "It was a long layover (24 days) and then getting Dodge City coming out of the break. It was sloppy out there for quite a bit of the time."
Owning a 40-33 lead after three quarters, it appeared the Lady Buffs were well on their way to a double-digit victory when they scored the first four points of the final period to go up 44-33.
But Dodge, under former Holcomb coach Kelley Snodgrass in her second season, responded to make it a heart-thumping final six minutes.
When the Demons' Chandra Sain hit her fourth 3-pointer of the night with 1:26 remaining, it made it a two-point, 48-46, game.
But the Buffs got a key bucket from junior Jaymie Bernbeck, who finished with her second straight double-double, on a nifty 8-foot floater in the lane with 1:06 left.
From there, Dodge City stumbled, turning the ball over twice, and the Lady Buffs managed to secure the victory with three free throws in the final 40 seconds.
"It wasn't always pretty, but when we got the ball in the right spots, we were able to score," Upton said. "But we've got to do a better job when we get that early lead and then give our starters a rest. Somebody won't be happy, but we have to get more production from our bench."
All but four of the Buffs' points came from their starting five, as Bernbeck knocked in a game-high 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Senior point guard Jacksenie Tornero added 16 points, including three 3-pointers.
"Late, we were trying to get the ball in Jaymie's hands at the right spots, and when we did, she was unstoppable," Upton said. "Not many teams are going to be able to stop her down low."
The Lady Buffs got off to a blazing start, and it had all the appearances of a blowout, similar to their two regular-season wins of a year ago.
But the Lady Demons had other ideas.
After the Lady Buffs stormed to a 9-0 lead in the game's first four minutes, they went cold. And then it was the Demons' turn to heat up, scoring eight unanswered points to finish the first period down by just one.
Then, the Lady Demons went up by four with five straight points before the Lady Buffs got right back into it, going on an 11-3 run to move in front 20-16. Dodge's Chandra Sain and Katrina Roenfeldt hit a pair of 3-pointers late in the second, but Garden's Tionnia McKee hit a 12-footer with 11 seconds go to put the Lady Buffs up 24-22 at intermission.
The shooting was modest, as the Buffs hit 20 of 49 for 40 percent, while the Lady Demons were 18 of 47 (38 percent).
Sain and Kartina Roenfeldt shared high-point honors for the Demons with 12 points each.
The Lady Buffs, now 5-2 overall and 1-0 in the WAC, will play host to Great Bend at 6 p.m. Friday at The Garden.
Garden City 9 15 16 13 -- 53
Dodge City 8 14 11 13 -- 46
Garden City (53) — Linenberger 1-1 0-0 2, Tornero 5-13 3-5 16, Tempel 3-8 0-1 7, McKee 2-6 0-2 4, Dreiling 2-3 0-0 4, Bernbeck 7-15 6-11 20, Dart 0-2 0-0 0, Carrillo 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-49 9-19 53.
Dodge City (46) — B. Bradshaw 3-6 1-2 7, Durler 0-2 1-1 1, Sain 4-11 0-0 12, Harshberger 4-6 1-2 9, Roenfeldt 5-11 1-1 12, T. Bradshaw 2-4 1-3 5, Shelor 0-5 0-1 0. Totals 18-47 5-10 46.
3-point goals--GC 4-7 (Tornero 3-5, Tempel 1-1, McKee 0-1), DC 5-13 (Sain 4-11, Roenfeldt 1-2). Rebounds--Garden City 35 (Bernbeck 10), Dodge City 27 (B. Bradshaw, Harshberger, Roenfeldt, Shelor 4 each). Turnovers--Garden City 18, Dodge City 23. Fouls--Garden City 15, Dodge City 17. Fouled out--Dodge City (B. Bradshaw, Harshberger).