By BRETT MARSHALL
After a disappointing one-point loss on Thursday night to open the Valley Center January Jam, the next goal for Garden City High School Jacy Holloway was to have his Buffaloes' boys finish strong in the three-day tournament.
On Saturday afternoon, they accomplished that goal with a hard-fought, come-from-behind 53-51 triumph over Topeka Seaman to claim fifth place in the Jam. A year ago, the Buffs had won their opening game for the first time since competing in the tournament and also finished 2-1 en route to a third-place finish.
"It was good for us to figure out how to win a close game, when we were behind," Holloway said in a telephone interview Sunday. "We made free throws down the stretch, something that we've struggled with much of the season."
The Buffs shot just over 50 percent from the field for the third straight game, and had a solid 15-of-20 shooting at the free throw line for 75 percent.
The Buffs took an early lead in the game, hit a lull in scoring toward the end of the first, but still were in front 11-10 after the opening period. A 13-10 scoring advantage in the second provided them a 24-20 halftime lead as junior Caleb Tramp and senior Hunter Delgado provided the scoring with nine and eight points in that stretch.
The Vikings went on a 23-15 scoring binge in the third quarter when the Buffs' scrambling defense failed to force the desired turnovers.
"We were just trying to speed them up and get some turnovers, but it didn't work out that way," Holloway said.
The Buffs then abandoned that defense and went to a more traditional zone, with some half-court traps, and that seemed to cause problems for the Vikes.
"I thought we were more solid with the trap, and it helped us a lot," Holloway said. "The man-to-man wasn't working for us early. There in the fourth, we were able to get some steals, able to get the ball down low and get some easy buckets."
After trailing 43-39 at the end of three quarters, the Buffs outscored the Vikes 9-4 to take a 48-47 lead with just over two minutes remaining. Jared Koster cashed in a pair of free throws at the 1:25 mark before Seaman's Reid Morgart countered with two charities, making it 50-49 with 40 seconds to go. With 29 seconds showing, Tristan Nanninga made one of two free throws before Chase Bauer tied it at 51 when he made two charity shots with 20 seconds left.
Delgado, who shared game-high honors with 18 points with Seaman's Morgart, then knocked in the game-winning free throws with five seconds remaining. Seaman attempted a 3-point basket at the buzzer but it was wide left.
"Hunter just had a different look before the game," Holloway said of his senior guard/forward. "He was ready to go, ready to play and had a little more of a calmness about him. He let the game come to him and was much more under control. When he plays that way, we're a much, much better team."
The Buffs are now 8-5 and have little time to get ready for their 7 p.m. Tuesday home game against Ulysses at The Garden.
Topeka Seaman 10 10 23 8 -- 51
Garden City 11 13 15 14 -- 53
Topeka Seaman (4-7) — Clancy 0 0-0 0, Hazim 1 0-0 2, Fehr 4 0-0 10, Zeferjohn 2 1-2 6, Frye 1 0-0 2, Bauer 3 3-4 11, Morgart 7 4-6 18, Poort 1 0-0 2. Totals 19 8-12 51.
Garden City (8-5) — Tramp 5 4-5 14, Delgado 4 7-7 18, Olivas 1 0-0 3, Koster 2 3-4 7, Nanninga 2 1-2 5, Rodriguez 0 0-2 0, Parr 1 0-0 2, Love 2 0-0 4. Totals 17 15-20 53.
3-point goals--Seaman 5 (Fehr 2, Zeferjohn 1, Bauer 2), Garden City 4 (Delgado 3, Olivas 1). Fouls--Seaman 15, Garden City 17. Fouled out--none.