Buffaloes stumble in sub-state semifinal

GCHS Athletics
Garden City High School's Chris Grant, center, drives the lane between Hutchinson's Myles Thompson (21) and Nicolas Lange for a basket Tuesday during a 6A sub-state matchup at GCHS. The Buffaloes' season came to an end on the night with a 51-43 loss to the Salthawks. Watching the play for Garden City are Trey Nuzum, left, and Isaac Flores.

Hutch loss ends season with 9-8 record

Garden City High School boys basketball coach Jacy Holloway had predicted that his team’s Class 6A sub-state semifinal on Tuesday night at The Garden would not be exactly like taking on a usual No. 4 seed team when the Hutchinson Salthawks visited.

The mere fact that Hutchinson was entering with a 5-13 won-loss record while the Buffs were 9-7 would make one believe the Buffs were in a good position to advance to Friday’s championship game.

But Holloway had emphasized the fact that Hutch plays in one of the top 2-3 leagues in Kansas and had played a schedule much tougher than what the Buffs had encountered during the shortened 2021 season.

His prediction came true as the Buffs struggled to get any consistency going on offense while not being able to defensively keep Hutch from posting a 51-43 victory that ended the Buffs’ season at 9-8. Hutch, meanwhile, takes its deceiving 6-13 record to Dodge City on Friday for a 6:30 p.m. tip-off against the Red Demons, 68-52 victors over Liberal in Dodge City on Tuesday night in the other semifinal.

The first half was a slow-moving affair with Hutch taking a 10-7 lead after the opening quarter while the Buffs responded in the second with a 12-7 advantage to go in at halftime up by a deuce, 19-17. Both teams struggled shooting, and both teams struggled shooting at the free throw line. Turnovers also proved costly to both teams, with Garden committing 18 miscues to 15 for Hutch.

With two minutes elapsed in the third quarter, the Buffs were up 22-19 and then the Salthawks reeled off 8 consecutive points to go up 27-22. The Buffs would never recapture the lead, although they did pull within five once and six twice in the fourth, the last coming at 47-41 with 0:48 left in the game on an Aaron Guevara 3-pointer.

Hutch finished that third-quarter surge with a 15-7 advantage to take a 32-26 advantage into the fourth period. The lead would grow to as many as 11, at 39-28 and again at 47-36 with 3:08 on the clock.

Garden City High School's Aaron Guevara goes up for a three-pointer over Hutchinson's Dauntay King Tuesday during a 6A sub-state game at GCHS.

Sophomore Caleb Wiese topped the Buffs’ scoring with 12 points, including an 8 of 11 night at the free throw line. Tae Rosales followed with 10. The Buffs managed to connect on just 13 of 21 free throws.

Hutchinson, meanwhile, spread the scoring out with four players scoring in double figures. Myles Thompson, the Salthawks 6-7 senior center, led the way with 14 points, although he made only 4 of 14 free throws. Jake Huhs was close behind with 12, Treyton Peterson chipped in with 11 and Garrett Robertson added 10. The Salthawks also struggled at the charity stripe, cashing only 12 of 26 freebies.

“There are a lot of things we tried to fight through this season, and it seems like it caught up with us here at the end,” Holloway said. “If we play the way we did in some of those good wins in the middle of the schedule, we come out with a win tonight and would be playing Friday. But we didn’t do that.”

The Buffs were without backup junior guard Luke Tolbert, who had suffered an injury in the Liberal game and was declared out for the postseason. Two other Buffs had battled flu-like symptoms earlier in the day and just prior to tip-off.

“There are a lot of factors that went into this season, and when I look around the state in 6A, I see other good programs who have struggled,” Holloway said. “I don’t know for sure if it was the COVID issues that we had to deal with, but it’s been a real up and down season to try and develop consistency.”

The Buffs’ season concluded with just 17 games on the schedule due to COVID restrictions placed upon them in December when all of USD 457 activities and athletics were shut down. They didn’t practice until Jan. 4 with their first game on Jan. 8.

After struggling early with a 1-3 record, the Buffs then won 8 of 10 to improve to 9-5 after a stirring 58-54 road win at rival Dodge City on Feb. 16. Three of those wins were by 20-plus points. But the final 12 days saw the Buffs fall to No. 1-ranked Class 5A Hays; suffer a double-overtime road loss at Liberal to end the regular season before Tuesday’s loss to the Salthawks.

Three of those eight losses came against WAC rival Hays, which completed its regular season at 20-0. They also lost to a good Kearney, Neb., team early on and once to Dodge City.

HUTCHINSON (51) – Peterson 4 0-0 11, Huhs 5 2-2 12, Robertson 3 4-7 10, Rodriguez 0 1-2 1, Thompson 5 4-4 14, Lange 1 1-1 3. Totals 18 12-26 51.

GARDEN CITY (43) – Flores 2 0-2 6, Grant 1 1-2 3, Metzen 0 0-1 0, Steinmetz 1 0-0 3, Rosales 3 4-5 10, Wiese 2 8-11 12, Guevara 3 0-0 7, Nuzum 1 0-0 2. Totals 13 13-21 43.

Hutchinson (6-13) 10; 7; 15; 19; - 51

Garden City (9-8) 7; 12; 7; 17; - 43

3-point goals: Hutchinson 3 (Peterson 3), Garden City 4 (Flores 2, Steinmetz 1, Guevara 1. Fouls: Hutchinson 19, Garden City 21. Fouled out: Garden City (Flores).