By BRETT MARSHALL
The Garden City boys basketball team had plenty of things to play for on Friday night against the invading Hays High Indians at the New Garden.
First, there was a chance to solidify their No. 2 seed in the upcoming Class 6A sub-state, assuring them of homecourt throughout.
Second, there was a chance to move over the .500 mark in the Western Athletic Conference, with a chance to finish second, and an outside shot at a tie for first.
So when the Buffs limited Hays to just 45 points as opposed to the 74 they gave up to the Indians in a 20-point loss just a little over a month ago, one would expect them to be in the right position at the finish.
The problem, though, as it has become of late, was scoring.
The Buffs quite simply aren’t scoring enough. They aren’t shooting the right shots. They are not being aggressive enough. They aren’t finding the open man.
At least, that’s the way head coach Jacy Holloway described it in the aftermath of the Buffs’ 45-36 setback to the Indians.
“Confused, that’s one way I’d say we played,” a disappointed Holloway said. “It’s a lot of things. Not focusing on rebounding (Hays won that battle convincingly, 41-19). We’re not being aggressive and attacking on offense.”
Conversely, Holloway said the defensive plan put in place to slow down the Indians worked nearly the way that the staff had drawn it up and the team had practiced.
“I thought we were good defensively,” Holloway said. “We did a good job of making it tough for them to get the kind of shots they wanted. At least we did so for most of the game.”
Indeed, the Indians struggled to 15-of-45 shooting for the game (33.3 percent) were just 3-of-16 behind the 3-point stripe. But the Buffs weren’t any better, hitting just 14-of-43 field goals (32.5 percent) and were a woeful 4-of-15 from behind the arc.
The low-scoring affair saw Hays take an 8-6 lead after one quarter and then extend it to 17-13 at halftime. Neither team could find its way to the bucket with any consistency.
“I had told our kids after we lost at Abilene that we needed to rebound better, and I thought that contributed to us winning tonight,” Hays coach Rick Keltner said. “I’m proud of the kids who played tonight. They busted their butts off out there, and it was great to see them rewarded.”
The Buffs were hanging close, trailing only 27-26 with 2:22 left in the third quarter when Tristan Nanninga canned a 3-pointer. But Hays closed out the period on a 7-0 run, five of those coming from 6-5 postman Brady Werth, who finished the night with a double-double of 19 points and 14 rebounds.
“We didn’t have much of an answer for Werth,” Holloway said. “He’s tought to handle down low, and he did a good job of posting up, and we didn’t do a very good job of keeping him away from the basket.”
After trailing by as many as 10 in the early portion of the fourth, the Buffs were down 41-36 with 42 seconds left on another driving shot in the lane by Nanninga. But Hays came up big at the free throw line to close it out, making all four of its charities.
The Indians finished the game with a 12-of-15 effort from the stripe (80 percent) while the Terpstra was the only Buff to go to the line, going 4-of-4.
Sophomore Caleb Tramp was the lone double-digit scorer for the Buffs, finishing with 10 on a 5-of-6 shooting night.
“The few times we ran our offense, that looked like what we had done in practice,” Holloway said of Tramp’s buckets which came mostly inside the paint.
For Holloway, the disappointment came knowing that his team had full control of where and whom the Buffs will play in the postseason. They still might finish in the No. 2 slot, but now they have the same number of losses as Dodge City, and the Red Demons own the tiebreaker with two wins over the Buffs.
“It’s pretty tough to come away with a win when you don’t run the game plan that you’ve practiced on,” Holloway said.
The Buffs, now 12-7 overall and 3-4 in the WAC, close out their regular season with a home finale on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. against Liberal. They will then await word on the sub-state bracketing which will be played on Feb. 28. Hays improved its record to 12-6 and 4-2. The Indians are at Dodge City on Tuesday.
Hays High 8 9 17 11 — 45
Garden City 6 7 13 10 — 36
Hays High (45) — Niernberger 0-5 0-0 0, Petz 4-11 2-2 11, Nunnery 0-1 0-0 0, Clark 1-5 1-3 4, Parker 1-5 2-2 4, Bixenman 3-9 0-0 7, Werth 6-9 7-8 19. Totals 15-45 12-15 45.
Garden City (36) — Delgado 2-11 0-0 6, Riggs 0-1 0-0 0, Hernandez 0-1 0-0 0, Nanninga 3-8 0-0 7, Banner 2-7 0-0 5, Keller 0-0 0-0 0, Terpstra 2-9 4-4 8, Parr 0-0 0-0 0, Koster 0-0 0-0 0, Tramp 5-6 0-0 10. Totals 14-43 4-4 36.
3-point goals—Hays 3-16 (Niernberger 0-1, Petz 1-5, Clark 1-3, Parker 0-2, Bixenman 1-5), Garden City 4-15 (Delgado 2-6, Riggs 0-1, Nanninga 1-3, Banner 1-4, Terpstra 0-1). Rebounds—Hays 41 (Werth 14), Garden City 19 (Delgado 5). Turnovers—Hays 12, Garden City 6. Fouls—Hays 9, Garden City 13. Fouled out—none.