ULYSSES — Twice this season the Lakin Broncs have dropped games to the Ulysses Tigers.
Tuesday’s game, a 62-59 win for Ulysses in front of a home crowd, was a spirited way to start the new year as both teams go to 5-2.
In December, Ulysses defeated Lakin 59-52 in the Hugoton Red and Blue Classic in what can best be described as an up-tempo game.
Once again the Tigers were able to withstand Lakin’s barrage of three-pointers (they hit 12 of 34) and get the win.
After Ulysses took an 11-10 lead after the opening quarter, the Tigers scored on seven of eight possessions in the early part of the second period, but the Broncs countered with four 3-pointers during that stretch to stay within two, 24-22 midway in.
Ulysses got up 28-22 behind Andrew Nagel’s and Bryan Garcia’s field goals, but Khai Hernandez buried a trey and then a field goal to close the gap once more before Garcia sank his third field goal of the period and the Tigers held a 30-27 lead with just over a minute to play.
But Lakin’s Hunter Kirby hit a bucket and Diego Davila hit a three at the buzzer to put the Broncs up 32-30 at intermission.
That duo put Lakin up by six to carry that momentum into the third, until Jaidon Taylor and Garcia hit back-to-back treys to tie it.
Lakin took its final lead of the night (45-43) when Dawsen Shalberg hit a field goal, but Ulysses went on a 12-0 run that carried into the fourth quarter, taking advantage of three straight Lakin turnovers and five overall in that stretch.
They pulled within 55-50 on Kirby’s sixth trey of the night, but then found themselves down 59-50 with 3:35 to play.
Kirby and Shalberg scored seven straight points to cut the lead to two with 2:11 to go, only to be countered by 6-8 center Devin Walker’s put back with 1:35 left.
Coach Nate Schmitt had his team foul and put the Tigers on the line, a strategy that almost worked as Ulysses missed the front end of three straight one-and-ones and the first of a double bonus.
Down 62-59, Lakin had two more chances to tie with a three but came up short.
Garcia led the Tigers with 19 points, followed by Julius Sifuentes and Victor Perez with 11 each.
Kirby led Lakin with 26 points, including his six treys. Davila had 13 and Shalberg and Hernandez both had 10.
For Ulysses coach Chris Wagner, it was an up-and-down game that took a team effort.
“We had kids have to step up with a couple of ankle injuries and a starter picking up two early fouls,” he said. “It was an interesting dynamic, something we haven’t experienced too much of this year, so it was good to see how our depth could step in and show what they’ve got.”
Both teams finished with 31 rebounds, but Wagner wasn’t happy that Lakin picked up a number of theirs on the offensive side.
“We didn’t execute our box outs very well,” he said. “But we got enough rebounds down the stretch to make it a game.”
Walker led all players with 14 boards.
Missed free throws were also a concern, Wagner said of his team hitting just 5 of 15. Lakin was just 1 of 4 from the line.
Wagner said his team had some different plans to handle Lakin’s 3-point storm, but in the first half it was tough as the Broncs hit eight of them before getting their first two-pointer with 1:39 to play.
“We went to a zone to try to create a little havoc,” Wagner said. “They were able to shoot us out of that zone. We went back and manned up, and they did a lot better job the second half getting out there and contesting the shot. It was one of those games where you just had to grit it out and go with what’s working.”
Schmitt thought his Broncs played better in this loss than the first time around.
“That’s the whole objective is to continue to get better,” he said. “I told the guys afterwards that there have been games we’ve won but we didn’t play as well as we played tonight — and we lost.’
Taking the lead at halftime and increasing it in the third period was encouraging. Suddenly being up five turned into a deficit of seven.
“But when you play at that pace, you’re going to be up by a lot, you’re going to be down by a lot, you’re going to come back,” Schmitt said. “We’re all still learning this style and what to do. But I definitely think we’re leaving here better than we came.”
Ulysses will host Scott City Friday, but Lakin is off for yet another week after that when they travel to Meade on Jan. 12.
“We’re not a huge fan of our schedule right now and we’re going to work hard to make it easier on the kids next year,” Schmitt, who is also Lakin’s activities director, said.
His team will watch a lot of film and shoot a lot over the next few days to fill that gap, he said.