By BRETT MARSHALL
It had been 17 days since the Garden City Buffaloes had suffered a fourth-quarter meltdown in 15-point loss to the Dodge City Red Demons in their final game before the holiday break.
So when the Buffs took the court on Friday night at the Garden against Western Athletic Conference foe Great Bend, the last thing coach Jacy Holloway wanted to see was a repeat of their December trauma.
This time, it didn't happen, and the Buffs responded by providing Holloway a 41-32 victory that was earned the old-fashioned way — with tough defense, aggressive rebounding and opportunistic scoring.
"I'll take a win anytime, especially against a team that is aggressive and defensive-minded," Holloway said of the win, which improved the Buffs to 5-2 overall and 1-1 in the WAC. "Great Bend really gets their kids to play hard, and we had to find a way to match that."
The effects of the long holiday break layoff were evident from the opening tipoff. Neither team could find any semblance of offensive flow, and that primarily was due to solid defense at both ends of the court.
"I guess we've become a defensive-minded team, since we still are struggling finding a way to score," Holloway said. "I guess we'll just stick with it until these kids find the way to get some offense going."
In that methodical first quarter, the Buffs led just 6-5 after the opening eight minutes. The teams battled to a 13-all standoff in the second quarter, making it 19-18 at halftime.
"I told the kids at the half that we had to do a better job of rebounding," Holloway said. "We were more focused early, and then sometimes we just don't play with purpose. We weren't communicating, and that's why I made the lineup change (complete switch of five bench players in the first half). We've got to figure out that there are five people on the court and they need to know what the others are doing."
The third quarter didn't provide much in the way of offensive fireworks either, as the Buffs had a 9-3 advantage, pushing their lead to 28-21 heading to the final period. With Great Bend fouling on a frequent basis, the Buffs had to win this one at the free-throw line, and they managed to nail 11-of-17 charity shots down the stretch.
It was still anybody's game at the 4:20 mark, when Great Bend's Ethan Henderson cashed a pair of free throws to make it 32-28. The Buffs then went on a 7-2 run to go up by a 39-30 count with just under 1:30 remaining. From there, the teams exchanged a pair of free throws to wind down the contest.
For the Buffs, sophomore Caleb Tramp came off the bench to provide a spark by scoring 10 points to lead the team. He was the lone double-digit scorer, as Hunter Delgado, Austin Terpstra and Tristan Nanninga added nine, eight and seven points, respectively. Terpstra went down with an apparent ankle injury, the result of which is unknown, with 5:27 left in the game. He didn't return. Terpstra grabbed six rebounds to help the Buffs to a narrow 26-25 rebounding lead.
Henderson registered a double-double for the Panthers (1-5, 0-1) by scoring 11 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Great Bend didn't shoot well from the field (28.1 percent), including just 4-of-13 from 3-point range. The Buffs were 13-of-32 (40.6 percent) and were 13-of-19 from the line.
The defensive effort by the Buffs resulted in 19 Great Bend turnovers and just 9-of-32 shooting
The Buffs get little recovery time, as they hit the road late this morning for Topeka, where they were scheduled for a 7 p.m. tipoff against Topeka West. They return to WAC play on Tuesday at Liberal.
Great Bend 5 13 3 11 -- 32
Garden City 6 13 9 13 -- 41
Great Bend (32) — Marshall 0-4 0-0 0, Touslee 0-1 0-0 0, Ibarra 1-8 0-0 2, Beck 1-5 1-2 4, Joiner 3-4 0-0 9, Henderson 2-6 7-10 11, Lutz 1-2 2-2 4, Warren 1-2 0-1 2. Totals 9-32 10-15 32.
Garden City (41) — Delgado 3-4 2-2 9, Riggs 0-0 0-0 0, Nanninga 2-5 3-4 7, Banner 1-4 1-3 3, Keller 0-1 0-0 0, Terpstra 2-9 4-5 8, Parr 2-4 0-0 4, Tramp 3-5 4-6 10, Olivas 0-0 0-0 0, Love 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-32 13-19 41.
3-point goals--Great Bend 4 (Beck 1, Joiner 3), Garden City 1 (Delgado). Rebounds--Great Bend 25 (Henderson 10), Garden City 26 (Terpstra 6). Turnovers--Great Bend 19, Garden City 13. Fouls--Great Bend 20, Garden City 20. Fouled out--Great Bend (Touslee), Garden City (Parr).