Hays, KS-Playing in Hays has always been a challenge for the Buffaloes. They had lost 14 of their last 15 games there entering Saturday. But a well-devised plan, coupled with efficient shooting, broke the Indians’ backs, and gave Garden City a true statement win on the road.
Jarrod Springston returned from an ankle injury to score 16 points, Kyler Lamb fell one rebound shy of his second double-double, and the Buffaloes beat Hays 50-39 at Indians’ Field House. It was their first win in Hays since Jan. 16, 2015.
“We had a plan, and the guys executed it very well,” Head Coach Jacy Holloway said afterwards. “They played very good defense tonight.”
That defense held Hays to just 3-of-18 from downtown (17 percent) and 35 percent overall (15-of-43).
“We knew that they liked to shoot the 3,” Holloway said. “Our game plan was devised around that.”
After the lead changed hands four times in the first quarter, the Buffaloes seized control. Springston grabbed Azavier Williams’ missed 3 from the top of the key and laid it back in softly off the glass to put Garden City up four. On their next possession, the senior buried a 15-foot pullup before Williams sliced inside for consecutive layups, putting the finishing touches on an 11-0 blitz that had the road team on top 14-4 with 1:33 to play in the period.
“Jarrod was a little rusty to start,” Holloway said. “But he looked good moving as the game progressed.”
Lamb’s second trey of the first half pushed the Buffaloes’ lead to 19-7 early in the second period. But as expected, the Indians made their run. Dayln Swartz hit two free throws, Tragdon McCrae nailed a 35-foot 3, and T.J. Nunnery added a three-point play to bring Hays to within four, 19-15 with 4:25 on the clock.
“It was all about how we answered their runs,” Holloway said. “And I think we did a good job of that tonight.”
With the lead at five, Springston struck again with a layup inside, Lamb added a bucket in transition before Sprinsgton roasted 6-9 post Dylan Ruder with a step-back jumper in the foul-line circle that gave Garden City a 27-20 edge at the half.
But as they did to begin the second, Hays pushed their way back into the game. Trey Adams completed a reverse layup on a second-chance opportunity, and Nunnery splashed home an open triple from the wing to give the Indians their first lead, 28-27, with 3:52 to play in the third. It lasted all of 50 seconds.
Williams got free in transition for a layup, Springston and Lamb hit four straight free throws, and the Buffaloes were back up by five. They took a three-point lead into the fourth.
“This is tough place to play because of the environment,” Holloway said. “But our guys did a good job of not letting that affect them.”
Garden City put any thoughts of a Hays’ comeback to bed in the final period. Williams devastating blow by from the left wing, where he beat two defenders off the bounce, gave the Buffaloes a 39-32 advantage. From there, Carlos Acosta and Lamb went 7-of-8 at the line in the final 53 seconds, and Garden City finished off the Indians.
Williams poured in a season-high 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting for Garden City, who won their second straight game in 24 hours following Tuesday’s loss to Dodge City. Lamb added 13 and nine boards.
McCrae, who burned the Buffaloes last year by hitting nine 3’s in their building, was held to just eight points on 1-of-5 from downtown. Nunnery and Swartz each scored seven.
Next up: Garden City vs. Hugoton-Tuesday, Feb. 5-7:30 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app
Hays, KS-Garden City has proven that they contend with some of the top teams from around the state. But they have learn to finish. Such was the case on Saturday.
Brooke Denning scored 15 points, including the game-winning 3, Jaycee Dale added eight, and the Indians erased nine minutes worth of futility with a 41-38 victory over the Buffaloes.
“It’s disappointing that she (Denning) hit that shot,” Head Coach Matt Pfeifer said. “We played her perfectly. She just made a heck of a shot.”
Hays looked like a fractured squad late in the third quarter. Once Savannah Schneider converted a layup with 2:25 to play in the period, the Indians went silent. Garden City ripped off 13 straight points, and the Buffaloes had a 37-34 lead with 3:30 remaining in the game.
“It’s all about confidence,” Pfeifer said. “We didn’t play with much of it in the first half. I thought we did a much better job in the second half.”
In their loss to Newton the week before, the Buffaloes were in a position to win the game if they would have made their free throws. That same scenario played out again on Saturday.
Julie Calzonetti missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 55 seconds to go leading to a Hays free throw that sliced the deficit to two. Later in the final minute, Keyhana Turner hit 1-of-2 at the line, leaving the door open for Hays. And boy did the Indians make them pay.
Mattie Hutchison’s 30-foot bomb splashed home to tie the game at 38 with 12 seconds. Then, after a Garden City turnover, it was Denning, hitting a fallaway, contested 3-pointer from the right wing at the buzzer to give the Indians a three-point victory. Two treys in the final 12 seconds on a night where Hays had missed 10 of their first 12 from beyond the arc.
“You could see at times that our legs just weren’t there after playing last night and traveling again,” Pfeifer said. “But we still had a chance to win the game.”
Garden City finished 1-of-5 at the line in the fourth period. They also turned it over 14 times over the final 16 minutes.
“You can’t keep turning the ball over and expect to win,” Pfeifer said. “We did that way too much in the second half.”
They had 12 in the first half, which was a driving force in the Indians building a six-point lead three minutes into the second period. Once Tasiah Nunnery finished a second-chance opportunity, Pfeifer called a timeout to regroup.
“We just had to settle down and make the right play,” he said.
Garden City closed the gap to two at the break. But Hays put them in a precarious spot in the third quarter. The Indians scored six straight, capped with Denning’s 3 from the wing that put the home team up by nine. Schneider then made it a 10-point lead with a layup from the left block, leaving the Buffaloes in world of hurt, or so it seemed.
The tide turned when Taryn Tabor drained a 3 to cut it to seven with 1:22 to play in the third. Rodriguez followed that up with a triple early in the fourth before Tabor drilled another long ball to make it a one-point game. Garden City then took the lead on Turner’s reverse layup, turning a 10-point deficit into a three-point edge with 3:30 to play.
Tabor, who is still battling back from a back injury, scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting for Garden City, who missed a chance at winning in Hays for a second consecutive year. Elyssa Salazar scored nine points on 4-of-10 and Turner added seven and six boards.
Denning finished 6-of-8 from the field and connected on a season-high three 3-pointers for Hays. Dale and Schneider each chipped in eight.
Next up: Garden City vs. Hugoton-Tuesday, Feb. 5-5:45 p.m. pregame; 6 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app