“Everything Jackson Dirks gives us is a bonus,” Garden City High School head boys basketball coach Jacy Holloway has said of his 6-foot-5 post, whose job is to defend and rebound.
In Saturday night’s Roundball Classic finale, Dirks’ scoring meant everything, as he tipped in an offensive rebound at the buzzer to lift the Buffaloes to a student-section draining, undefeated-season continuing 48-46 win over the Holcomb Longhorns — Dirks’ only two points of the night.
“You can only dream of a moment like that,” Dirks said, after he had been mobbed by his teammates and peers on The Garden’s court as the Buffs improved to 4-0.
The buzzer-beater came after a furious rally from the Longhorns to erase a six-point deficit in the final minute, making the loss all the more heartbreaking for Holcomb.
“When you exert that much energy and effort to put you in that situation, and then a small, little big thing (missing a box out on Dirks) kind of costs you the game, it really does hurt,” Holcomb head coach Chad Novack said.
Of course, Novack also noted the mistakes earlier in the game that put his Longhorns in the situation where they had to rally, including 15 turnovers.
The Longhorns trailed by as many as seven points, when the Buffs' Carlos Acosta hit his third 3-pointer of the night early in the fourth quarter against their Finney County rivals.
“We told the guys, ‘there’s not a 6-point, 8-point shot, so just get a score, get a stop, get a score, get a stop, just a little bit at a time,” Novack said.
The Longhorns just started chipping away.
Trey Cox answered Costa’s 3 with a 3 of his own. Jackson Stoppel laid in another 2-pointer, before the Buffs hit four free throws to pull back ahead by six with 1:16 to go.
But Stoppel — who had 12 points — drained a 3, and Lamb answered with a layup, before Stopped hit a free throw and Zephyn Mason sunk a 3-pointer to pull the Longhorns within 45-44.
Lamb went 1 for 2 at the free-throw line, and Mason hit both of his free throws, after a Lamb foul that GCHS head coach Jacy Holloway adamantly disagreed with, to tie it at 46 with 22 seconds remaining.
The Buffs inbounded, but the drawn-up play was not going well, so Holloway called a timeout with 5.5 seconds remaining. But the referee came over to say the timeout had been called slightly earlier with 6 seconds remaining — the extra half-a-second proved to be invaluable.
Holloway drew up a play for his most consistent scorer, Acosta, and the junior received the inbound at the right wing and dribbled down the baseline to put up a short floater, which was short and bounced down to Azavier Williams. The senior guard lofted another shot up, through a lot of contact, and it was well off, but bounced down to the out-stretched arm of Dirks, who volleyball tipped it back in as the buzzer sounded, sending the nearby student section into pandemonium.
“That was a big bonus for him,” Holloway said with a laugh, referencing his quote of Dirks’ points being a plus. “He did what he was supposed to do. We put him on that side to possibly get a rebound, and he did a good job.”
For much of the game, Dirks struggled with foul trouble against Holcomb’s big Damon Kepley, who had scored 28 points in the previous two games of the Roundball Classic. The 6-foot-6 Longhorn post finished with 12 points on 5-of-5 shooting Saturday.
Without Dirks for long stretches in the second and third quarters, it seemed like Kepley was able to score at will — when the Longhorns got the ball to him.
“At times we did, and at times we didn’t,” Novack said. “I felt like sometimes we settled for the perimeter shot instead of working to get the ball inside … when we got the ball inside, good things happened.”
Like when Kepley laid in a 2-pointer to give Holcomb a 26-25 lead midway through the third quarter, after the Buffs led 23-19 at halftime. But Lamb put the Buffs back in the lead with a trey, and Acosta — who finished with a game-high 17 points — hit a jumper to make it 30-26.
The Buffs expanded that to 36-30 by the end of the third quarter, before the frenetic Longhorn rally and the game-winning tip.
Contact J. Levi Burnfin at email@example.com.