Valley Center, Ks (westernkansasnews.com)-Maybe there’s a black cat sitting outside Hornets Field House. Whatever it is, Garden City cannot figure out how to win a first round game at the January Jam.
Nick Williams sank 16-of-18 free throws, finishing with a team-best 20 points as Wichita Northwest outlasted Garden City 63-60, handing the Buffaloes their sixth opening-game loss at Valley Center in the last seven years.
“Our defense let us down,” Garden City coach Jacy Holloway said afterwards. “We let them do whatever they wanted.”
The Grizzlies shot 49 percent from the field, the highest Garden City (7-5, 4-0) has allowed all season long. And early on, Wichita Northwest (4-6, 2-6) put on a clinic.
The Grizzlies hit 8-of-14 shots in the first quarter, building their lead to five. That advantage grew to as many as 11 with three minutes to play in the half. That’s when Holloway called a timeout to settle his group down.
It worked as the Buffaloes held Wichita Northwest without a basket over the next five minutes, scoring 12 unanswered points to take a 35-34 lead early in the third.
“We just never got into a rhythm,” Holloway said. “Even after taking the lead.”
The advantage was short lived. After Luis Rodriguez’s floater put Garden City on top, it was Michael Duncan leading the fast break the other way, grabbing the lead right back with a right-hand layup. The Grizzlies never trailed again.
Caleb Tramp, who finished with 20 points, his fourth 20-point game in the last five outings, fouled out of the game late in the fourth. But even with that, the Buffaloes still had a chance to send it to overtime.
Trailing 62-56 with a minute to play, Jared Koster used a back screen along the baseline to free himself in the corner. The junior caught the pass in rhythm and buried a three to pull Garden City to within three. Following K’Veion Richard’s turnover, the junior had a chance to tie the game on the ensuing possession. But his driving layup hit the side of the rim, and Duncan grabbed the rebound.
Koster would get a chance to redeem himself just moments later. Duncan missed two free throws and Jesus Reyes split a pair and the Buffaloes trailed by two with eight seconds. That setup one final chance for the sharpshooter.
With seven seconds to play, Koster collected a pass from Miguel Olivas on the right wing. But Richard’s pressure defense forced him to double-clutch the shot, leaving it short and giving the Grizzlies a two-point win.
“Even with all of that, we still had a chance to win the game,” Holloway proclaimed. “Jared kept us afloat.”
Koster netted a career-high 21 points. He and Tramp combined for 41 points on 16-of-45 shooting. The rest of the team scored 19 points and was 5-of-15 from the floor.
Richard chipped in 11 points for the Grizzlies, who have won three out of their last five games after starting the season 1-4. It’s their first win over a team with a winning record since beating Wichita North last season.
There were five lead changes and one tie. Garden City’s largest lead was four at 13-9 with 4:41 left in the first quarter. The Grizzlies largest was 11, 34-23 with three minutes left in the second.
Next up: vs. Olathe Northwest-Friday, January 23; 4:45 p.m. pregame; 5 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com; mobile app: KWKR and tuneinradio: KWKR