Lady Buffs trump Lady Longhorns in 2nd half
By KEVIN THOMPSON
It was a game of two halves between two teams on similar tracks.
But in the end, it was the all-around play and size of the Garden City Lady Buffaloes that outlasted the hustle of the Holcomb Lady Longhorns 67-54 in the second of what looks to become a traditional Finney County Shootout.
It was the No.8 team in Class 3A Longhorns that set the early pace, taking a 27-17 lead midway into the second quarter, but it was the eighth-ranked team in Class 6A that put together the more complete game after that, as they went on a 47-27 run the rest of the game to take the win.
The story was the second half, when Garden City got hot and Holcomb couldn't seem to hold onto the ball. The Buffaloes hit nine of their 14 field goals, while the Longhorns hit just four and turned it over six times, as the home team won the third quarter 22-9 to take a 49-41 lead at the break.
A lot of that was thanks to Jaymie Bernbeck, who scored 12 of her game-high 21 points and grabbed four boards to take control of the inside in the third.
After that, it was a matter of controlling the tempo, hitting free throws and sealing the win, said Garden City coach David Upton. Add to that his team's ability to limit the high-scoring Holcomb offense to just 36 percent from the floor, and 8-of-22 from behind the arc.
"When you're a team that loves to score, you're going to live and die by shooting that three-ball. We did a good job with our defense," he said.
Early on, it was Holcomb that set the pace. Holding Garden City to just 3-of-8 shooting in the first quarter, Holcomb rode a wave of scoring on six of its seven possessions to end the first quarter and start the second. That included four 3-pointers from Kylee Amos (14 points in the first half) in a 3-minute stretch to put the Longhorns up 26-15.
Then the Buffaloes got on track, hitting 7-of-8 field goals in the second quarter, including three field goals from Johna McClelland, to close the gap to just 32-27 at the break and establish Buffalo dominance the rest of the game.
Garden City doesn't get enough credit for its defense, Upton said, but after Amos' barrage of threes, his team took it as a challenge to defend against it in the second half.
Mission accomplished — Holcomb hit just 2-of-10 that half.
"We did a great job of getting out there and defending that three-ball and making them have to work," he said.
That defense also played havoc with Holcomb's offensive flow, as the 'Horns committed an uncharacteristic 16 turnovers, many of them in the second half when Garden City's press seemed to wear on them.
It just seemed to be a case of having a deeper bench, taller players, and playing physical.
"I think we're a better team, top to bottom," Upton said. "I think we're just as athletic and just as mobile. I think we went out and exerted that tonight."
The Buffaloes had trouble getting the ball inside against Holcomb early on, as McClelland and Bernbeck combined for just two field goals in the first quarter.
In the second, they found more success over the smaller Longhorns, and the tandem figured out the spacing. The second half was just more exploitation of that difference. The inside duo hit 10-of-13 shots in the middle quarters as Holcomb couldn't find any answers.
Weathering the storm that can be the Holcomb air attack was critical, as well, Upton said.
"We knew they were going to get some threes. We know they do a lot of things to get open looks at that three. We just told our girls to not panic," he said. "It'll pass and we'll take over. And that's exactly what happened tonight."
And while Holcomb did a good job slowing down guard Taryn Tempel, she still had 13 points (two below her average), and she was able to dish the ball inside for the bigs to score, Upton said.
McClelland finished with 15 points, and Jacksenie Tornero added 10.
For Holcomb coach Kenton Tennal, it was a case of not taking care of the ball. Turnovers against a soft press doesn't make much sense, especially when his girls tended to dribble up the sidelines and not to the middle. They made it too easy for Garden City.
"They finished everything," Tennal said of Garden City's second-half offensive effort. "We played good defense the first half, but we just didn't get the calls in the second half. Going against an athletic team like that, pressing us, I think we could have overcome if we had just taken care of the ball."
The momentum changed near the end of the second quarter after Katie Pfeifer nailed a three with 46 seconds remaining, and Holcomb got a turnover but threw the ball away with 5 seconds left. Bernbeck hit a shot at the buzzer to cut what could have been a 10-point Holcomb lead down to 5.
"We had momentum, then gave it right back to them," Tennal said. "I'm happy with how we battled to the end, even if it wasn't smart basketball."
Amos led Holcomb with 19 points, including five 3-pointers. She was on, but they needed more girls to balance the load, Tennal said.
Tennal welcomes these types of challenges as the Longhorns prepare for state. After going 1-2 in the tough Hillsboro tournament two weeks ago, he wants his girls to play tough games. This was definitely one of those.
The Longhorns look to regroup against Goodland on Friday night when they travel north for a Great West Activities Conference game where they lead the league with a 5-0 mark.
Garden City looks to keep on track Friday as it hosts Guymon, Okla., at 6 p.m. at The New Garden where it will be homecoming.
"This win will give us a lot of momentum going into Friday," Upton said. "It's a huge win. The girls were going crazy in that locker room. This is going to carry us. We're going to be ready to go."
Holcomb 15 17 9 13 -- 54
Garden City 10 17 22 18 -- 67
Holcomb (11-3) — Pfeifer 3 2-2 10, Prieto 2 1-2 5, Heydman 3 1-2 7, Deniston 1 4-5 6, Amos 7 0-2 19, Pena 3 0-0 7. Totals 19 8-13 54.
Garden City (12-3) — McClelland 7 1-1 15, Linenberger 1 0-0 2, Tornero 2 5-6 10, Brunson 2 0-0 5, Tempel 3 5-6 13, McKee 0 1-3 2, Bernbeck 9 3-5 21.
3-pt. goals — Holcomb 8-22 (Pfeifer 2, Amos 5, Pena 1), Garden City 4-8 (Tornero, Brunson, Tempel 2). Rebounds — Holcomb 16 (Heydman 4), Garden City 25 (Bernbeck 7, McClelland 7). Turnovers — Holcomb 16, Garden City 18. Fouled out — none. Total fouls — Holcomb 16, Garden City 13.