The magical start to the Garden City girls’ season hit a wall Tuesday at The Garden, when the Buffaloes fell to undefeated Liberal 53-22 in the second conference game of the season.
The defensive wall Liberal established early in the game prevented Garden City from penetrating through the 3-point arc much of the first half as the visitors raced to an 18-4 lead after the first period and 37-5 by halftime.
“We just never really got comfortable, and that’s a credit to (Liberal’s) defense and with the scheme they had for us tonight,” GCHS head coach Matt Pfeiffer said.
The first-half numbers were staggering on both sides, with Liberal shooting 11 of 24 from the floor, recording 19 rebounds and giving up just four rebounds.
Meanwhile, Garden City was 2 of 18 from the floor (0 of 8 in the second quarter), with nine turnovers.
Liberal came out immediately in a tight man defense, forcing the Buffs to play outside for the entirety of the opening quarter, with Keyhanna Turner breaking through once for a layup, her team’s first score, at the 4:02 mark.
The Buffs' only other goal came from Elyssa Salazar at the 2-minute mark, meaning the Buffs went the next 10 minutes with just a free throw.
Garden City didn’t score a field goal until Julie Calzonetti went on a personal 3-possession scoring spree starting with under three minutes to play in the third, scoring on back-to-back treys followed by a put-back, but Liberal was up 48-15.
Calzonetti hit one more trey in the fourth, giving her 11 points to lead the Buffs, who shot just 7 of 37 from floor.
Garden City finished with 20 rebounds after just getting the four in the first half, and they turned the ball over only four times in the second half.
Some consolation for Pfeiffer, who knew Liberal was going to be a tough matchup.
“Unfortunately, you can’t spot them a lead like that and have a combination of where you miss a lot of open shots and easy shots that you normally have go down,” he said. “It was a bad combination from the start.”
A better showing in the second half was a positive to take away from this loss, he added.
“When you get down in a hole like that, there’s no other option than to relax and play,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll take that into the future and start playing that way because it should never be where you get in such a big hole like that and have to play that way.”
Garden City (6-2, 1-1) won’t have much time to dwell on this loss as the Buffs travel to Hays Friday for another Western Athletic Conference game.
Liberal (8-0, 2-0) got 13 points from Katie Horyna, 12 from Machia Mullens and 10 from Reagan Watt.