Aside from the Garden City High School wrestling team competing at home in the Rocky Welton Invitational on Saturday, three other Buffaloes’ squads were in action on the road Saturday.
The boys bowling team competed at the Great Plains Invitational in Wichita, finishing fourth out of 30 teams. The girls basketball team lost its third consecutive game at the Newton Invitational, falling to rival Dodge City, 38-24, and the boys swimming team, with a limited lineup, placed 15th among 15 teams at the Wichita Northwest Invitational.
After struggling for a good portion of the first month of the 2018 season, the Garden City High School boys bowling team put together its best performance on Saturday at the prestigious Great Plains Invitational at North Rock Lanes in Wichita.
The Buffs placed fourth among the 30-team invitational, the largest high school bowling event in Kansas, by qualifying third through a three-game series where they totaled the top five series of the six GCHS bowlers. Then, they went through a grueling 12-game Baker format (five bowlers, each bowls two frames, but not consecutively) and following that qualifying round, the Buffs had earned the No. 2 overall seed for the eight-team match play format.
In the quarterfinals, facing the No. 7-seed Hutchinson Salthawks, the Buffs rolled games of 197 and 225 to 148 and 220 for the Salthawks to win the best-of-three series. That put them in the semis against powerhouse Wichita Northwest, and the Buffs fell in a three-game classic, 219-207, 203-220, 205-187.
That dropped them into the third-place match against Bishop Carroll, and the Buffs dropped that match, too, with games of 246-147, 209-232 and then falling 170-168 in the last game.
“I think it was a very good performance for the boys,” said GCHS coach Kip Nichols. “It was far better than I would have expected, but certainly not surprising knowing what their potential is. As usual, it’s difficult to sort through the scores and how you’re doing compared to others, so when I saw we were seeded No. 2, it was a bit of a shock.”
The Buffs surged to that No. 2 seed following the 11th and 12th games of the Baker format, where they rolled back-to-back games of 256, which included a combined 20 strikes in the two tests.
A big turning point in the match play came in that opening battle with Hutchinson, Nichols said, when Aaron Schafer had to roll three consecutive strikes for the team to post a 225-220 victory.
“That set the tone for us the rest of the day,” Nichols said.
At the outset of the marathon day, the Buffs used five-of-six individual series totals for the team qualifying, and they responded with a 2,917 total over the three games.
Brayden Bicket, with games of 204-258-224 (686), led the way for the Buffs, who moved solidly into the Baker format that followed. Schafer also eclipsed the 600-pin series total with games of 205-226-203—634.
Northwest eventually went on to win the tournament, beating Junction City in the finals.
“I was encouraged by what I saw,” Nichols said of the Buffs’ effort. “We had some very bright spots. Brayden was just good all day, Jacob (Griffin) came back after struggling in the series and was very big in the Baker format. Aaron just had a solid day all the way around.”
Next up for the Buffs will be a return match with Liberal on the road Thursday at 3 p.m.
It was a tough finish at the Newton Invitational basketball tournament for the Garden City girls team on Saturday.
The Buffs, playing their third game in three days, fell in the seventh-place battle with Western Athletic Conference rival Dodge City, dropping a 38-24 decision, to return home 0-3 and now stand at 4-9 overall.
The teams will go right back at each other, as the Buffs head east to Dodge City to face the Red Demons in a 6 p.m. Western Athletic Conference matchup Tuesday.
In Saturday’s consolation bracket contest, the Buffs took an early 6-4 lead at the end of the first quarter, but couldn’t sustain the lead, falling behind at halftime, 18-8, as Dodge outscored the Buffs 14-2 in that eight-minute stretch.
The Buffs had their best quarter of the game in the third, outscoring Dodge 11-6, trimming the deficit to 24-19 heading to the fourth quarter.
"We kind of got after them at halftime because we didn't think the effort had been there in the first half," GCHS coach Matt Pfeifer said of the strong third stanza effort. "Even though it's a seventh-place game, you're playing your rival, so you'd expect the effort to be there."
But once again, the Buffs’ offense disappeared in the fourth, scoring just five points while Dodge matched its second-quarter output with 14 points.
"It's super frustrating and kind of disappointing when you go the other way after having cut the deficit in half," Pfeifer said. "Coming up Tuesday, we should be able to see that where we played hard in spurts, we did many good things. We missed a lot of easy shots, wide-open shots down low, and you just can't afford to miss those."
Senior Josie Calzonetti, who hit a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter, finished with 10 points to lead the Buffs. Kisa Unruh matched that output for the Demons (7-5).
The Buffs took just nine-of-18 swimmers to the Wichita Northwest invitational on Saturday.
Will Keller was the lone placer among the Buffs, taking 14th and scoring nine points for the team.
“The swimmers that swam did a fairly good job,” said GCHS coach Brian Watkins. “There were a couple of huge cuts (in times).”
Keller cut three seconds in the 100-yard butterfly while Peter Hall also lowered his times in the 100 fly and 100 backstroke. Trey Arwin had the biggest drop in time, lowering by six seconds his mark in the 200-yard freestyle.
The Buffs will host Liberal in a dual on Thursday at 4 p.m. at the YMCA Pool before they travel to the Manhattan Invitational on Saturday and then head to Great Bend for their first Western Athletic Conference meet on Feb. 8.