Liberal, KS-Garden City’s plan of a major upset took a serious detour in the opening minutes of Saturday’s substate final.
The Redskins stifled them, holding them without a shot attempt for the first 6:30. At the same time, Liberal went for the throat, building a 14-point halftime edge, and cruising to a 46-18 victory to advance to the state tournament for the second straight year.
“I know it didn’t end the way that we wanted,” Garden City Coach Matt Pfeifer said afterwards. “But this was an extremely fun team to coach.”
In front of their biggest home crowd of the season, the second-ranked Redskins did not disappoint. All-State point guard Katie Hornya knocked down a 3 in the waning seconds of the first quarter to put the Redskins up 9-2. In the second, Ragan Watt hit a turnaround jumper in the paint, Machia Mullens converted a three-point play and swished two free throws, and Liberal was up 18-5. They took a 20-6 advantage into the locker room.
“We were way too hesitant shooting the ball,” Pfeifer explained. “You can’t be that way against a great team like that.”
Garden City finished the first half 1-of-11 from the field (9 percent) and 1-of-5 on 3’s.
“We passed up some open looks,” Pfeifer said. “I mean, Liberal is good defensively, but there were shots that were there.”
The Redskins did not slow down in the third quarter, scoring the first seven points of the period, which included Horyna’s triple that put Liberal on top 27-6. Moments later, it was Hornya again, capping off a 16-2 run with a dagger 3 from the right corner, giving the Redskins a 26-point lead. They built that to as many as 30 in the fourth quarter when Mullins hit a driving layup, making it 42-12 with 5:20 to play.
Hornya finished with 15 points for Liberal, who improved to 22-0 for the first time in program history. Mullens added 11 points and four rebounds, and Aubrey Warden had eight and five boards.
Elyssa Salazar scored four points for the Buffaloes, who lost in the substate finals for the third time in four years.
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