By BRETT MARSHALL
After clinching what is believed to be their first Western Athletic Conference girls basketball championship on Friday, it would have been easy for the Garden City Lady Buffaloes to take it easy in their final regular season game on Tuesday night at the New Garden.
The Lady Buffs were taking on last-place Liberal and it would have been understandable for the Buffs to relax against the Lady Redskins.
But they didn’t and the result was a lopsided 88-21 win to cap off the most successful seasons in GCHS girls program history.
The Lady Buffs finish regular-season play with a 17-3 record and completed an 8-0 conference run to the WAC title. Liberal, meanwhile, saw its record slip to 4-15 and 0-7 with one game left on Friday at home against Dodge City.
Now, the Lady Buffs can turn their attention to the postseason, where they will be the No. 3 seed in the Class 6A sub-state and will likely be in the same bracket with either Wichita South or Maize, both of whom have just one loss heading into the final week of the regular season.
“I thought the girls were fired up and ready to go,” said GCHS coach David Upton about the team’s intensity from the start. “We wanted to come out and execute our things and can’t worry about what the other team was doing.”
After a brief slow start to Tuesday’s game, the Lady Buffs got untracked and kept rolling.
They were down 5-4 just two minutes into the contest before rattling off 19 unanswered points, and were comfortably in front 26-7 after just one quarter. Runs of 8-0 and 10-0 in the second period extended the Buffs’ advantage to 44-11 at intermission.
“I thought they did a great job of executing our things, and that’s what championship teams do,” Upton said. “We’ll take a couple of days off and let things soak in. It’s been a great season for the girls and we want them to enjoy what they’ve accomplished. We’ve had the best season in school history, gone undefeated in the WAC. Those are things we want them to appreciate.”
The Lady Buffs assured themselves of a home first-round game a week from today on Feb. 27. If the sub-state runs true to form, they would probably be on the road for the championship game on March 1 at either South or Maize with a berth on the line for the state tournament in Wichita, March 6-9.
It was a big scoring night for the Lady Buffs’ big three — Jaymie Bernbeck with 22, Taryn Tempel with 20 and Johna McClelland with 18. McClelland, playing her last regular season home game, also garnered 11 rebounds to finish with a double-double.
The Lady Buffs were red-hot shooting, connecting on 36-of-63 field goals for 57.1 percent, while limiting the Lady Redskins to a chilly 7-of-43 (16.2 percent). They owned the rebounding battle, too, 39-28. They held Jai Chapman in check, as the Liberal top offensive threat managed just five points.
“We really looked at working on a defense that was designed to stop a team with just one really good scorer and I thought the girls did a great job with that,” Upton said.
Now, it will be wait and see. Chances are Wichita South and Maize will both finish the season at 19-1 and then it will be a simple draw by lot to see who gets the No. 1 seed in the overall eight-team sub-state that is divided into two, four-team brackets to determine state qualifiers.
Priot to Tuesday’s game, the teams in sub-state included South and Maize, Garden City, Wichita North, Wichita Northwest, Hutchinson, Dodge City and Campus. The higher-seeded team hosts each round of the tournament.
Liberal 7 4 9 2 — 21
Garden City 26 18 22 22 — 88
Liberal (22) —Ramirez 1-3 0-1 2, Hernandez 0-2 0-0 0, Collins 0-3 0-0 0, Sanchez 1-6 0-0 2, Chapman 2-12 0-2 5, Larkin 2-5 1-2 5, Long 0-2 0-0 0, Shelton 0-2 0-0 0, Regalado 1-8 6-8 8. Totals 7-43 7-13 22.
Garden City (88) — McClelland 9-14 0-0 18, Padilla 3-5 0-0 9, Linenberger 0-0 0-0 0, Carrillo 2-5 4-5 8, Tornero 3-6 1-1 8, Brunson 1-7 0-0 3, Tempel 9-10 1-2 20, Bernbeck 9-16 4-5 22. Totals 36-63 10-13 88.
3-point goals—Liberal 1-8 (Hernandez 0-1, Sanchez 0-2, Chapman 1-4, Larkin 0-1), Garden City 6-10 (Padilla 3-3, Tornero 1-3, Brunson 1-3, Tempel 1-1). Rebounds—Liberal 28 (Larkin 7), Garden City 39 (McClelland 11). Turnovers—Liberal 22, Garden City 9. Fouls—Liberal 13, Garden City 9. Fouled out—none.