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Garden City, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-If there’s anything we’ve learned about the Garden City boys in 2016 it’s this: they definitely have a flare for the dramatic.
Jared Koster scored 16 of his game-high 26 points in the second half, Zac Karlin poured in a season-best 14, and the Buffaloes avoided a complete collapse to beat Ulysses 63-58 in overtime on Tuesday night at the Garden.
“We know how to make things exciting,” Buffaloes Head Coach Jacy Holloway. “But unfortunately it didn’t cost us in this one.”
Koster’s two free throws with 35 seconds left in the fourth quarter gave Garden City (5-9, 0-3) a 53-47 advantage. That’s when things got interesting.
Emilio Ballesteros scored to pull the Tigers to within four. At the other end, Garrett Doll missed the front-end-of a 1-and-1 before Ray Taylor connected on two free throws to make it 53-51.
“We need to learn how to finish stronger,” Holloway said. “It’s been a problem for us this season.”
After a timeout, Chris Wagner instructed his team to press. Doll caught it near the sideline but was met by three orange shirts. As he tried to work his way out of it, the sophomore guard inexplicably threw the ball backwards and out of bounds, giving the ball back to Ulysses with 10 seconds to play.
“It’s uncharacteristic of him for sure,” Holloway said. “But we have to do a better job with our press breaker. We weren’t very good tonight.”
Abraham Romero made the Buffaloes pay, rebounding his own miss and sticking it back in to tie the game at 53 with three seconds remaining.
Garden City had one last chance to win it in regulation, but Koster’s 3-pointer from the top of the key sailed wide left.
The final 30 seconds of the fourth quarter were a microcosm of the Buffaloes season: close but not close enough.
Holloway’s team though buckled down in overtime.
Edgar Aguilar swished two free throws, Koster buried a triple and four charity shots, and the Buffaloes survived to beat Ulysses (5-9, 2-3) for the for the fourth straight time. Koster scored seven of his team’s 10 points in the extra frame.
“Garett is one our better free throw shooters,” Holloway explained. “He just missed them tonight.”
In Doll’s defense, the majority of his four missed freebies were 90 percent of the way down. But it wasn’t all on him; as a team Garden City missed 11 from the line (14-of-25).
Playing for the second time in four days, Ulysses got a sense of exactly what Garden City wanted to do early. That enabled them to build a 6-0 lead on back-to-back 3-pointers by Zach Zerr. The junior guard scored a season-high 23 points on 6-of-11 from beyond the arc.
The Buffaloes fought back and eventually took the lead on Karlin’s trey in the final seconds of the opening period to take a 13-11 lead. They stretched that to six at the half.
But as they’ve done so many times this season, Garden City went cold in the third quarter. Ulysses countered with an 8-0 run and eventually built their own six-point advantage 42-36 with 20 seconds remaining in the quarter.
It didn’t stick. Karlin buried a 3 before the end of the period, Demarcus Elliott had a putback and Karlin’s layup gave the Buffaloes a 43-42 edge a minute into the fourth quarter. Karlin scored six of the first 10 points in the final frame, pushing the brown and white’s lead to six with 3:24 to go.
Bryan Garcia tallied 13 points and five rebounds for the Tigers, who lost their seventh straight game. Taylor added seven points and Jace Paul added a game-best eight rebounds off the bench.
Doll finished with 11 points, Tye Davis had five and Aguilar scored four and pulled down seven boards.
Next up: Garden City at Dodge City-Tuesday, February, 2-8 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr; mobile app: KWKR and tuneinradio app: KWKR