Buffs slide by Wichita NW, earn 3rd place at Valley Center Jam
By BRETT MARSHALL
Nobody could remember the last time the Garden City Buffaloes boys basketball team garnered a third-place finish in a three-day invitational tournament.
Maybe that serves the team and the Buffs' head coach Jacy Holloway well as the former Moundridge High School and Iowa State University standout continues to construct what he hopes will be a winning tradition at the Class 6A school.
Winning hasn't been easy for the Buffs this season despite the fact they are 9-4 overall and coming off a hard-fought 45-41 win on Saturday night against Wichita Northwest to claim third place at the Valley Center January Jam.
But that's OK with Holloway — he'll take the wins any way that they come.
"We're doing a number of things right, and putting ourselves in position to win games, and that's good," Holloway said. "But we're still learning to understand the game of basketball. How to do things in certain situations and to do them naturally. When you look at the really good teams, they just do things that are second nature for them, and we're still learning how to do that."
Yet, Holloway sees steady improvement in this year's Buffs and where the program stands just past the mid-point of his third season as head coach. The Buffs' nine wins equals the season output of a year ago and exceeds the eight wins they produced in his inaugural season two years ago.
"Where we're at is a huge improvement in one way," Holloway said on Sunday. "I thought when we walked off the floor Saturday, even after winning, that the boys weren't happy with the way they played. They still felt like they could have, perhaps should have been playing in the championship game."
The Buffs had lost a seven point lead in the final quarter on Friday night in a 62-59 overtime setback to Olathe Northwest in the semifinals. In that overtime period, the Buffs were outscored 10-0 in the first three minutes to see that title game opportunity disappear.
"I think it's a good thing, the expectations change, when you're disappointed in winning a game and knowing that you could have done better," Holloway said. "We're making slow progress, but they're winning games now."
In Saturday's game, the Buffs got Cortez Carr, the Grizzlies' 6-9 junior center, in early foul trouble (two in the first quarter) and that kept the big guy out of the lineup for most of the rest of the first half.
"For the most part, I thought defensively we did a good job," Holloway said. "We're still struggling with how to close out a game. Sometimes, I wonder if we're not forgetting how well we've played in other parts of a game. But we still were able to make plays that gave us the win. We had some plays that we didn't run correctly that didn't work."
And while the Buffs struggled in the early going from the free throw line, they did come up big in the fourth quarter from the charity stripe, making 8-of-10 down the stretch. They were 19-of-29 (65.5 percent) for the game.
"Maybe we should just tell them that it's the fourth quarter, two minutes left, game tied," Holloway said. "It's a lot about focusing. If we can hit 80 percent at the end, we certainly could do it earlier, too."
The Buffs fell behind 14-8 after the opening quarter but then went on a 13-3 scoring spree in the second quarter, limiting the Grizzlies to just one field goal and one free throw, that produced a 21-17 halftime lead. A 12-11 third quarter edge made it 33-28 Garden heading to the fourth period.
Bo Banner continued his strong play by scoring a game-high 11 points, nine of those coming in the second half, including 5-of-6 at the free throw line.
The Buffs jump right back into action on Tuesday with an 8 p.m. game at Ulysses.
Notes: Banner and Hunter Delgado were selected to the Jam's all-tournament second team. Evan Riggs took fourth place in the free throw contest while Caleb Tramp placed fourth in the slam dunk competition.
The Buffs haven't done it the easy way this season. Of their nine wins, five of them have come by four points or less. They've played three overtime games, winning two and losing one. Of their four losses, those have come by an average of 17 points.
Garden City 8 13 12 12 -- 45
Wichita NW 14 3 11 13 -- 41
Garden City (45) — Delgado 1 3-4 5, Riggs 0 1-2 1, Nanninga 2 3-4 7, Banner 3 5-6 11, Keller 0 1-2 1, Terpstra 3 3-5 9, Parr 2 1-4 5, Tramp 2 2-2 6. Totals 13 19-29 45.
Wichita NW (41) — Nicholson 2 0-0 6, Brown 2 1-2 5, Williams 3 1-3 7, Carson 0 1-2 1, Lolar 1 2-2 4, Carr 3 0-1 6, Grant 1 2-3 4, Johnston 3 2-5 8. Totals 15 9-18 41.
3-point goals--Wichita NW 2 (Nicholson 2), Garden City 0. Fouls--Wichita NW 19, Garden City 16. Fouled out--none.