HAYS — For much of the three-game Hays City Shootout, Garden City Lady Buffs’ basketball coach David Upton implored his inexperienced team to feel free to shoot the ball.

On Thursday, in a season-opening win over TMP-Marian, those instructions worked as the Lady Buffs shot nearly 50 percent from the field in a 46-38 victory.

But on Friday, in a 43-30 semifinal loss to eventual champion Newton, and then again on Saturday in a 45-37 setback to Great Bend in the third-place contest, it was ice cold shooting that doomed the Lady Buffs.

In each of the two setbacks, the Lady Buffs could do no better than connect on 25 percent of their field goals, and while Saturday’s loss didn’t mirror the slow start of Friday’s semifinal loss, the Lady Buffs still went through scoring droughts that lasted between two and four minutes.

“It was a back and forth kind of game,” Upton said of the matchup between the last two Western Athletic Conference champions (Garden City in 2013 and Great Bend in 2014). “They would make a run, we’d make a run. I’m sure they never relinquished the lead, but it was nip and tuck most of the way.”

The Lady Buffs trailed 9-8 after one quarter, but that came after a quick 6-0 start and they had suffered through a scoring lapse of 3 minutes, 39 seconds. Great Bend maintained a slim lead throughout much of the second quarter, but did go on a 10-3 run to finish the half leading 26-17.

“It might’ve been the worst half all weekend,” Upton said of his team’s play in the first 16 minutes. “We were out of sync both offensively and defensively. We had a pep talk at halftime, and I thought we came out and dominated the third quarter.”

The third quarter didn’t start out so smoothly, however, for the Lady Buffs as they found themselves down by 14, 31-17, with just under six minutes left. They finished out the period on a 10-4 run to keep within range at 35-27.

Late in the fourth, the Buffs got a pair of 3-point buckets from Joslyn Munoz and Jayme Flowers to pull within four, 40-36. But that would be as close as they would get, as the Panthers closed it out on an 8-2 spurt.

“We’ve been telling them all along they’ve got the green light,” Upton said of his six guards who see action. “I think they’re looking for someone else to do it (shoot), so they get a little tentative and it hurts their confidence. I’ve got confidence in them, and I’ve given no one a red light on shooting.”

Breece Dreiling was the lone double-figure scorer for the Lady Buffs with 10 points while also grabbing nine rebounds.

Great Bend was led by the Lady Panthers’ lone returning starter — Regan Unruh — who dropped in 15 points. Lauren Welsch added 12 points to the cause, along with nine rebounds. Great Bend had a 40-33 rebounding advantage. The Lady Buffs committed 17 turnovers to 16 for Great Bend.

Neither team shot particularly well, Garden City finishing at 12 of 47 for 25.5 percent and Great Bend at 12 of 43 for 27.9 percent. The free-throw line was the big difference, where the Lady Panthers cashed in 19 of 25 compared to just 9 of 15 for the Lady Buffs.

The Lady Buffs are now 1-2 and must regroup for the Southwest Classic, which begins on Thursday. The Lady Buffs will open Classic play at 6 p.m. against Pueblo (Colo.) East.

They will then face Wichita Trinity on Friday at 6:45 p.m. and then take on Finney County foe Holcomb in the renewal of the Ark River Rivalry on Saturday at the same time. All three nights are at The Garden.

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Garden City (1-2) — Munoz 1-5 0-0 3, Dart 2-8 0-0 5, Hinde 1-6 2-2 5, Flowers 1-7 0-0 3, Longoria 1-5 1-2 3, Richman 0-1 0-0 0, B. Elliott 0-1 0-0 0, Dreiling 3-6 4-8 10, Carrillo 2-4 1-1 5, A. Elliott 1-4 1-2 3. Totals 12-47 9-15 37.

Great Bend (2-1) — Boyd 0-1 3-4 3, Welsch 4-15 4-6 12, Kottas 0-0 2-2 2, Moyers 1-3 0-0 2, Burkhart 1-4 0-0 3, Unruh 5-9 5-6 15, Stein 0-1 0-0 0, Warren 0-1 0-0 0, Ireland 0-1 0-0 0, Mauler 1-4 2-3 4, Dreiling 0-4 3-4 3. Totals 12-43 19-25 45.

Garden City 8 9 10 10 — 37

Great Bend 9 17 9 10 — 45

3-point goals—Garden City 4-21 (Munoz 1-2, Dart 1-3, Hinde 1-5, Flowers 1-7, Longoria 0-3, Richman 0-1), Great Bend 1-6 (Welsch 0-1, Moyers 0-1, Burkhart 1-1, Unruh 0-1, Stein 0-1, Ireland 0-1). Rebounds—Garden City 33 (Dreiling 9), Great Bend 40 (Welsch 9). Turnovers—Garden City 17, Great Bend 16. Fouls—Garden City 28, Great Bend 13. Fouled out—Garden City (Dart, Carrillo).