It hasn’t happened often in the recent decades of boys basketball between the Garden City Buffaloes and the Dodge City Red Demons.
If there have been season sweeps of the home-and-home regular season Western Athletic Conference series, it’s usually been the Demons with the upper hand.
But on Tuesday night at The Garden, when the Buffaloes celebrated Senior Night and Pink Out Night (Breast Cancer Awareness), the Buffs added to that joyful occasion with a 68-53 thumping of their WAC rivals.
It came two weeks to the day after a heart-stopping 64-61 win in Dodge City that saw the Buffs very nearly lose all of an 18-point lead, only to survive when a last-second desperation 3-pointer by Dodge bounced off the rim.
Tuesday night, there were no last-second dramatics, but it didn’t mean there weren’t some anxious moments.
It’s just the way it is, it seems, when the Demons and the Buffs clash.
The Buffs never trailed after building a solid first-half advantage, going into the locker room at intermission with a comfortable 33-18 advantage.
But with Dodge’s new-look offense, pressure defense, and an up-tempo, 3-point shooting team, there’s never a moment to rest against the Demons.
Yet, the Buffs were able to turn the Demons back, time after time, in the latest victory.
“Both were fast-paced games and both teams brought a lot of energy,” said senior Garret Doll, playing perhaps his best all-around game of the season, finishing with 14 points and seven rebounds.
He drained two clutch treys in the last three minutes of the third quarter, after the Demons had sliced the lead to just two points at 35-33.
Doll’s trifecta from the wing was followed by a key fast break basket by Jarell Coleman, making his first appearance after missing three games with an injury. Doll drained another 3-pointer at the 1:08 mark, added a driving layup with 45 seconds left in the period and then Jayden Crook put the hammer down with a deep trey with just under 20 seconds left.
That 13-2 run pushed the Buffs back in front by 13, 48-35, heading to the fourth.
And while no lead appears safe against the aggressive Dodge attack, the Buffs’ lead never went under nine, that being at 52-43 with 6:17 remaining. Another mini-run of 8-3 shoved the lead back to 14, 60-46, at the 3:47 mark.
From there, it was a parade to the free-throw line, where the Buffs found their marksmanship, hitting their final eight charities while finishing the game with a red-hot 20-of-26 (76.9 percent) effort at the stripe.
“It’s a rivalry game, and you don’t expect them to go away,” Doll said of Dodge. “I thought we shot the ball well (21 of 46, 45.6 percent and 6 of 12 from 3-point range), and we played good defense.”
That defense limited the Demons to just 16 of 47 shooting (34 percent) and only 5 of 22 from behind the arc (22.7 percent). Dodge did its usual damage at the line, too, hitting 17 of 23. But this is a team that has been averaging shooting more than 30 free throws a game most of the season.
Garden coach Jacy Holloway was happy to get such a big win late in the season as the Buffs improved to 11-7 overall and are now 5-1 in the WAC. Their big nemesis, Hays, awaits them on Friday in Hays, and the Buffs are just a game behind the Indians with a shot at knotting up the league race.
“It’s crazy, but I think the kids are focused right now and we’re playing good defense,” Holloway said.
That would seem to be the case after the Indians torched the Buffs 82-53 in early January by knocking down 17 3-pointers.
But for one night, the Buffs could celebrate a big win over their biggest rival and a season sweep.
“I thought we did a good job of keeping aggressive on offense, and we got the ball to the post and we were able to get some good passes and cuts which created easier shots,” Holloway said.
Holloway said the 3-point shots by Doll and Crook late in the third were pivotal in holding off that last surge by the Demons, and then Kyler Lamb drained a trey at the 6:02 mark of the fourth, when Dodge had pulled to within nine. That seemed to take the steam out of the Demons.
“Those gave us a lot of momentum,” Holloway said.
Holloway said it was a big boost, too, to get Coleman back in the lineup, as the 6-3 senior was able to spell Demarcus Elliott, who got in early foul trouble and had to sit a good portion of the first half.
“It just helps the rotation and we don’t give up much height when he’s in the lineup,” Holloway said of Coleman, who scored five points and picked up six big boards.
The Buffs had a 35-25 rebounding advantage, with Doll leading the way with seven. In all, nine Buffs scored and eight plucked off two or more rebounds.
In addition to Doll’s 14 points, the Buffs got 10 points off the bench from Lamb while six other players scored between five and nine points.
Dodge, meanwhile, got a game-high 18 points (8-of-10 free throws) from Noah Sowers and 10 points from Hunter Heath. The Demons saw their record slip to 9-8 overall and 2-3 in the WAC.