GREAT BEND — Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.
Garden City’s boys basketball team painted a defensive masterpiece with a hard-fought 33-28 Western Athletic Conference victory over Great Bend Friday night. The victory wasn’t secure until a final tying 3-point attempt by Ty Esfeld missed in the final seconds. Jayden Crook’s two free throws handed the Buffaloes a final 33-28 margin.
The Buffaloes outscored the Panthers 3-0 in a frightful offensive output in the second-period. Garden City assistant coach Eric Base described the shutout quarter when the Panthers scored zero points on 13 possessions for a 15-15 halftime tie.
“Eric Base said it was the most exciting 3-point quarter he’s ever been a part of,” said Garden City head coach Jacy Holloway. “We’re very happy to earn the victory and come away with a league road win. Great Bend always plays us tough. We played Great Bend three times last year and they had us scouted really well. Great Bend’s team plays with great effort.”
Garden City (5-2, 1-0 WAC) faced a 27-day layoff after beating Scott City 62-27 to close out the Clarion Inn Roundball Classic on Dec. 9.
Tye Davis led Garden City with nine points. Jarrod Springston added eight points and Carlos Acosta and hard-charging Demarcus Elliott added six points and two crucial third-quarter assists.
Elliott made the game-changing plays in the third quarter with a pair of second-chance baskets and nifty assists on 3-pointers by Davis and Springston for a 28-22 lead after three quarters.
But Great Bend rallied with a vintage hustling comeback.
The Panthers scored back-to-back baskets on steals by Koy Brack and Ty Esfeld to make it 30-26. Esfeld muscled home an inside basket against Elliott for a 30-28 score with 14 seconds left in regulation. Springston’s free throw made it 31-28, but the Buffaloes defended Esfeld with excellent halfcourt defense on his final 3-point attempt.
The Panthers (1-5, 0-1 WAC) sliced up Garden City’s man-to-man defense with a trio of 3-pointers in a 15-point first quarter.
Holloway had seen enough and switched to 2-3 and 3-2 zone defenses with trapping schemes. The Panthers shot six of 23 with 13 turnovers in the final three quarters.
“We didn’t defend their dribble drive and didn’t help on defense,” Holloway said. “We found a defense that worked for us. We went to our zone and trapped out of it. I’d rather play man-to-man defense.”
Great Bend (1-5, 0-1 WAC) held the Buffaloes to 33 percent shooting, but 15 turnovers in a low-possession game were too many.
“We had too many mental lapeses,” said Great Bend coach Tim Brooks. “We were really good on defense. But we had too many mistakes on offesne.”
The Buffs will return home Tuesday to face Liberal in another WAC battle. Tipoff for the game is set for approximately 7:45 p.m.