It’s how you start and how you finish that defines a successful team, and that’s what the Garden City Buffaloes excelled at Tuesday night at The Garden.
Garden City started strong in both halves and finished the game strong as they held off Western Athletic Conference rival Liberal, 54-45.
The Buffs led 11-3 to start the game, started the second half with an 8-0 run, and finished the game 13-6 to raise their record to 7-1 for the season and 2-0 in conference play.
“We’ve really been concentrating on getting out better at the start of games,” coach Jacy Holloway said. “I don’t feel like we’ve played well at the start of any of our games, so definitely that was a focus. Our guys made sure they were prepared and warmed up a lot better.”
The Buffs jumped out to an 11-3 lead, converting on seven of their first nine possessions, taking a 14-8 lead at the first break.
Liberal went on a 6-2 run to start the second period and cut the lead to 16-14 less than three minutes in, but the Buffs scored six straight to widen the gap.
The Redskins answered with an 8-0 run (Brody Sumner drained a pair of treys) to tie the game at 22 and took the lead on an and-1 at 1:58.
Riley Muniz answered with his third field goal of the quarter and Jarrod Springston put back a missed three to give the Buffs a 27-25 lead at halftime.
The Buffs started the second half much like the first, by making possessions count. They scored on four of five possessions to take a 35-27 lead, before Liberal cut it to 39-34 heading into the final period.
The Redskins the final points of the third quarter on a made basket, missed free throw and a put back on the rebound.
The closest Liberal could get in the final period was 41-39 with over five minutes to play.
From there, Garden City buried 9 of 11 from the line as the Redskins played the fouling game to try to get back in.
If there was anything to criticize, Holloway said, it was the in-between spots between the big runs where his team might have been tired.
“Combinations and rotations are kind hurting us,” he said. “We need to go back and watch film on that to make sure giving guys breaks.”
In this game, it was a strategy of matchups that gassed some of his players, Holloway said, with Liberal significantly smaller than the Buffs.
“But finishing the game the way we go back to the starters towards the end of the game, and that helps,” he added.
Carlos Acosta and Springston led the Buffs with 15 points each while Kyler Lamb added 10.
Garden City finished 17 of 32 from the floor (53 percent) and 17 of 22 from the line.
With Liberal fouling in the fourth, it was important for his players to step up to the line and make free throws, and that they did, Holloway said.
“We don’t shoot a very good percentage on the season but tonight we shot better (67 percent) and down the stretch is huge,” he said. “With all our guards in there, we go up there with a lot of confidence to knock them down.”
Liberal (5-3, 0-2) got 17 points from Sumner, the only player in double figures. The Redskins were 16 of 43 from the floor (37 percent).
Garden City will travel to Hays Friday for another conference matchup and then to Valley Center next week for a mid-season tournament.