By BRETT MARSHALL
GREAT BEND — It's well past Christmas and the holiday season, so there are no gift-wrapped presents for the Garden City Buffaloes boys basketball team.
And the Buffs would never expect to get one from Western Athletic Conference nemesis Great Bend.
That was never more evident here Friday night, as the Buffaloes had to work extra hard to bring home a big present in the form of a 34-23 victory over the Panthers, as the second half of the WAC schedule got under way.
With the win, the Buffs improved to 12-5 overall and 3-2 in the WAC, while the Panthers fell to 5-11 and 2-3.
"It was a struggle out there, as it usually is when we play Great Bend," GCHS coach Jacy Holloway said. "We were looking to get some confidence in the first half, but it was awfully difficult with the way the game played out."
It was a 10-9 Garden City lead after one quarter, and then the game slowed to an uphill molasses style of play as the Panthers used a 7-2 margin to take an uninspiring 16-12 lead into the locker room at halftime.
"We were trying to find some shots, and we seemed to be rushed when we did have them," Holloway said of the team's offensive struggle. "Possessions are important when we play them, and you just have to try and remain patient."
The Buffs, who had been outrebounded in the first 16 minutes, took control of the boards in the final half, finishing with a 30-23 advantage in rebounds.
"We were more aggressive, and I really thought defensively we did a better job of finding their 3-point shooters (3-of-16 for the Panthers behind the arc)," Holloway said. "The kids also did a good job on (Ethan) Henderson (4 points, 7 boards). Those were big differences between the first game (a 41-32 Garden City win on Jan. 4)."
The Buffs scored the first seven points of the third quarter to finally take the lead for good, finishing the period with a 21-18 edge as the teams headed to the final eight minutes.
"We finally got some good shots and did a better job of finding the open shooter," Holloway said.
With such a low-scoring affair, Bo Banner took center stage, as the 6-1 senior scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
"He's been very active lately, and has done a number of good things for us in recent games," Holloway said of Banner. "In this kind of game, it's good to have a go-to guy."
Banner was 4-of-9 from the field, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and also knocking down 8-of-10 free throws.
Neither team shot the ball particularly well, the Buffs finishing at 9-of-28 for 31 percent, while the Panthers were 8-of-34 for 23.5 percent.
In the final stretch of the game, the Buffs saw their lead slip to one, 24-23, when Great Bend's Dillon Reiser canned a trey with 5:20 remaining. That, however, was Great Bend's last gasp. The Buffs went on a 10-0 run to put the game out of reach.
Great Bend didn't have a double-figure scorer as Gabe Joiner led the way with just six points.
The Buffs hit the road again on Tuesday for a 7:45 p.m. game at Dodge City.
Garden City 10 2 9 13 -- 34
Great Bend 9 7 2 7 -- 25
Garden City (34) — Delgado 0-5 0-0 0, Riggs 0-0 1-2 1, Hernandez 0-1 0-0 0, Nanninga 2-3 1-5 5, Banner 4-9 8-10 18, Keller 0-1 3-4 3, Terpstra 0-5 0-0 0, Parr 1-2 0-0 2, Koster 0-0 0-0 0, Tramp 2-2 1-2 5. Totals 9-28 14-23 34.
Great Bend (25) — T. Ibarra 0-0 0-0 0, Touslee 1-5 0-0 2, B. Ibarra 0-8 3-7 3, Beck 2-3 0-1 5, Reiser 1-3 0-1 3, Joiner 2-7 1-2 6, Henderson 2-6 0-0 4, Bayless 0-0 2-2 2, Lutz 0-1 0-0 0, Warren 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 8-34 6-13 25.
3-point goals--Garden City 2-8 (Delgado 0-3, Banner 2-5), Great Bend 3-16 (Touslee 0-1, B. Ibarra 0-6, Beck 1-1, Reiser 1-3, Joiner 1-5). Rebounds--Garden City 30 (Banner 7, Terpstra 7), Great Bend 23 (Joiner 6). Turnovers--Garden City 13, Great Bend 13. Fouls--Garden City 16, Great Bend 19. Fouled out--Garden City (Parr), Great Bend (Henderson).