With four of its top guards combining for a total of 12 points, the bulk of the scoring for the Garden City High School boys basketball team Tuesday night was left to the two inside bigs — 6-4 Demarcus Elliott and 6-3 Derrick Sexton.
The two seniors — Elliott a starter and Sexton who came off the bench — provided the offensive spark for the Buffaloes as they won going away, 54-38, over Liberal at The Garden.
In the process, the Buffs improved their season record to 6-2 and are 2-0 in the Western Athletic Conference, with a big home game looming on the horizon Friday against perennial power Hays.
While the final score looks convincing, and in many ways it was, there was only a three-point differential midway through the third period, with the Buffs clinging to a 28-25 lead.
That’s when the Buffs finally got their offense in gear, thanks in part to a ball-hawking defense that triggered numerous fast-break baskets.
“I thought for much of the game, the defense did a pretty good job of speeding them up and getting them out of their rhythm,” GCHS coach Jacy Holloway said afterward. “Overall, I thought the defense set the tempo for the game.”
Elliott took scoring honors with 14 points off 6-of-9 shooting, and the big man also grabbed six rebounds. Sexton, who along with teammate Jarell Coleman sat out Friday’s win at Great Bend on disciplinary issues, provided the bench spark that the Buffs sorely needed on a night when the starters struggled.
Sexton was 4 of 9 from the field, 2 of 3 at the free-throw line and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds for a double-double, and had Holloway praising his effort.
“His was all about the extra effort,” Holloway said of Sexton. “He’s been doing a great job in practice, and he earned the playing time.”
Sophomore guard Carlos Acosta was the lone backcourt player who garnered a good night on the offensive end, finishing with 11 points off 4-of-8 shooting and a perfect 2 of 2 at the line.
“I just thought everyone was pretty active on the defensive end, and that’s what we’ve got to do,” Holloway said.
Elliott, for his part, said he thought the key was to be able to get the ball inside to him, and then he could find the open teammate in different spots.
“We always do better when we’re going inside-out,” Elliott said. “I thought we played better as a team tonight. We ran the floor better, and I’d guess we had more assists than usual.”
It was a game in which the Buffs never trailed, but the lead didn’t get into the comfortable zone until an 8-0 run to close out the third period to provide the Buffs with a 38-25 advantage heading to the fourth.
Any Liberal (0-2/3-5) hopes for a comeback were quickly dashed as the Buffs went on a 12-3 spree to begin the final period. That put them up 48-28 with just more than half of the quarter remaining.
The Redskins’ biggest deficit came at 52-30, and only a late 8-2 run made the score just a little more respectable.
The Buffs finished the night hitting 22-of-50 shots for 44 percent.
Their rebounding advantage was an impressive 40-23 as four players had five or more boards.
Turnovers, or lack thereof, also played into the Buffs’ success. And while they did finish with 11 miscues, six of those came in the final four minutes of the game after having taken care of the ball for the first 28 minutes with just five.