GREAT BEND — Garden City’s girls had not played a basketball game in 27 days —and it showed Friday.
The rusty Buffaloes converted one score in 17 third-quarter possessions, and fell to Great Bend 46-34 in Friday’s Western Athletic Conference opener. Garden City (3-4, 0-1) had a 27-day layoff since beating Scott City to capture the Clarion Inn Roundball Classic on Dec. 9.
The Panthers controlled the game’s tempo from the start with full-court pressure that helped force 27 Garden City turnovers. Garden City’s hustling Beth Guymon kept the Buffaloes within 27-19 at halftime with a 10-point first half and a pair of three-pointers. Leading scorer Josie Calzonetti missed nine minutes of the first half with two fouls.
The Panthers took complete control with a 12-2 third quarter for a 38-21 lead. Great Bend defender Alyssa Herter held Calzonetti to three points and one of eight shooting through three quarters. The Buffaloes trailed 44-25 by the time Calzonetti got rolling with an 11-point fourth quarter that made the final margin more respectable. Calzonetti scored 14 points and Guymon added 12 points. The other Buffaloes made four-of-18 field goals.
“When Josie is playing, the girls play with more confidence,” said Garden City coach Matt Pfeifer. “We run a lot of offense through Josie, and when she wasn’t playing, Great Bend exposed some of our offensive weaknesses. The girls are still learning how to step up and play with confidence on offense.”
Jenna Mauler, averaging 2 points, surprised the Buffaloes with a trio of three-pointers and a career high 13 points. The Buffaloes had no answers for Great Bend’s all-league Camryn Dunekack, who scored nine points with eight rebounds and five assists. Dunekack dominated the first halfwith seven points, six rebounds and three assists.
“Dunekack is a skilled player with experience,” Pfeifer said. “We didn’t guard her very well at times.”
The Buffaloes shot seven of 21 the first half and four of 16 after halftime. The Buffaloes got sped up against Great Bend’s pressure defense.
“It’s frustrating because we broke down on things we worked on,” Pfeifer said. “It was an issue of us settling down and slowing down rather than going too fast.”
Coach Carrie Minton credited Herter and the Panthers’ pressure for the victory.
“We came out and played aggressive defense that helped lead to some easy baskets,” Minton said. “Alyssa Herter drew a tough defensive assignment, and did a tremendous job because Calzonetti is a great player.”
Great Bend (2-4, 1-0 WAC) swept the Buffaloes last year, winning 78-68 and 46-36.
The Buffs will be at home Tuesday when they host Liberal in a 6 p.m. tipoff at The Garden.