By BRETT MARSHALL
Whether it's at Garden Bowl or Hard Rock Lanes, it seems to make little difference to Garden City senior Vicky Newell where she and her Lady Buffs' teammates compete.
She just feels right at home at either hometown location.
For the second straight week, Newell garnered top honors in the girls division on Thursday at Hard Rock by fashioning a 611 series to lead her team to a commanding 9-2 victory over the visiting Lady Redskins of Liberal in a Western Athletic Conference dual while Holcomb's girls were a distant third.
It was an entirely different storyline, though, for the Buffaloes' boys team, which struggled in the three-game team series before making an abbreviated rally in the Baker format match portion of the competition, coming up on the short end of a 6-5 match score against the Redskins.
"The girls just continue to get better and are gaining confidence with each competitive outing," GCHS coach Kip Nichols said. "They just don't let anything faze them. After dropping that first game, they loosened up and went to town."
Newell had opened with a sub-par 164 before putting together games of 246 and 201 as she edged Liberal's Kimberly Vanley by just five pins for high individual honors. Teammate Alexa Hemmert occupied the third individual spot with a 531 series with games of 198-177-156.
"Vicky did a fabulous job for us today and really got us off and going," Nichols said. "The girls, all of them, have bought into the team part of the sport. That's what's been so good about it for them."
Newell said that she had developed a certain comfort level bowling on those familiar lanes where the team practices.
"I started off a little slow today, but things picked up from there," Newell, the lone senior on the girls team, said. "During practice on Wednesday, we moved my shot around by changing the arrows I was throwing over and moving to the right with my feet. It worked out really well."
Newell, who admittedly is self-critical of her bowling, said Nichols had shown her scores from her junior year to this year in an effort for her to see how much she had improved.
"He showed me this series and that series at different locations, and all of a sudden I could see that I really did have a lot of improvement," Newell said. "It really helped to go to camps last summer, and coach Nichols has been really good in helping me improve."
Nichols, though, had little outright praise for the start to the boys when they were going through their 3-game team series, losing that part of the competition to both Liberal and Holcomb. Senior Juan Ramirez was the team's top scorer in that format with a 576 series (163-199-214).
"Without a doubt our worst performance of the year," Nichols said of the boys' effort. "I really don't know what happens with them. We get into a match and things tighten up, rather than relying on the skills that we all know they have. Despite that, I thought they showed a lot of heart in the Baker format."
The Baker format is a separate 3-game series in which each team uses five of its bowlers to roll two frames each to record its team score. Each game is worth two points in the WAC scoring system. The Buffs won all three games from Liberal and made up 107 pins of a 147-pin deficit after the team series.
"That's probably one of our best totals in Baker this season," Nichols said. "Usually, we have one game that hurts, but this time we were pretty consistent (199-211-179--589)."
For Holcomb's boys, who finished a mere two pins behind the Buffs in the overall pin total, it was a day that coach Lindall Cox has been looking for all season.
"It's fun to see them bowl well, because we've been struggling lately," Cox said of his boys. "We've been working with them on reading the lanes better and making those adjustments. It was fun to be in the thick of it for a change rather than just feeling like you're a spectator."
The Longhorns were led by individual third-place finisher Caleb Stewart, whose 598 (158-247-193) was behind Liberal's Tyler Killingsworth (620) and Hunter Reinhart (612). Three of the Longhorns eclipsed the 550-series total and another was right there at 549.
"We're improving, and that's the best part of what I saw today," Cox said. "We're not satisfied until we start seeing everybody rolling those kind of scores. But it is encouraging."
Garden City is idle until Thursday, when the Buffs host Great Bend at 3 p.m. at Garden Bowl in another WAC dual.
Results in Scoreboard, Page B2.