With a relatively inexperienced set of bowlers on both the girls and boys teams, Garden City coach Kip Nichols came away from the season-opening Western Athletic Conference meet happy with second- and third-place finishes on Thursday at Great Bend.

The Lady Buffs finished runner-up to heavily favored Great Bend in the match play championship after having gone through the three-game qualifying with the top team score, finishing 20 pins ahead of the Lady Panthers (1,964 to 1,944). The Buffs' boys, meanwhile, qualified second in the three-game preliminary round, and then lost to Liberal in the best 3-of-5 match play portion, falling 3-2 after taking a 2-0 lead against the Redskins. They defeated Dodge City in the third-place match.

"Overall, I'm very happy with where we're at when I look at the rest of the WAC," Nichols said Thursday night in a telephone interview. "I'm totally happy and a little shocked with the way the ladies bowled today. We had four girls with no varsity experience."

Alexa Hemmert and Amanda Diehl rolled three-game series of 508 to pace the Lady Buffs in the qualifying round. Victoria Newell had a 489, followed by Jensen Strasser and Brittany Palomino at 459 and 458, respectively, while Tansy Park added a 337.

In the girls' first match against Dodge City, the Lady Buffs had to go to the fifth-game tiebreaker, winning that one 156-110. They had lost the first two games by margins of 157-100 and 120-109 before coming back with wins of 166-140 and 177-148.

"The girls showed a lot of grit out there today," Nichols said. "I really liked the way they fought."

In the championship match against Great Bend, the Lady Buffs lost the first two games by scores of 149-147 and 172-136, before roaring back with a 219-157 win in the third game. Great Bend clinched the title with a 193-151 win in the fourth and deciding game.

"The girls really stepped up, and I told them they had bowled really well for their opening tournament," Nichols said.

On the boys side, Juan Ramirez and Therol Kells paced the Buffs in the three-game qualifying by rolling totals of 611 and 604. That provided them enough to finish with a team total of 2,360 pins to first-place Great Bend's 2,444. Mickey Bridges was next with a 588 series, followed by Tristan Funk with a 557, Avery Turner with a 499 and Kieran Henderson with a 494.

"I thought the boys did a nice job during qualifying," Nichols said.

In the match play portion, however, the Buffs let an early lead slip away against Liberal after winning the first two games by margins of 216-175 and 163-159, before losing games three and four (200-180 and 178-170).

"We manhandled them in the first two games and then we lost the next three games," Nichols said of the boys. "That just drove me nuts, to see us lose our composure and not do those fundamental things that we've worked on. That was disappointing."

The teams are back in action on Saturday when they are in Wichita for the Bishop Carroll tournament.

Results in Scoreboard, Page B2.