Valley Center, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-In 1974, Barbara Streisand’s “The Way We Were” was at the top of the charts, the Miami Dolphins won their second straight Super Bowl title and the Boston Celtics knocked off Kareem Abdul Jabar’s Milwaukee Bucks in a thrilling, seven-game NBA Finals series.
It was also the last time that Garden City lost seven straight games in a single season.
That is until Friday night.
Tyler Brown scored 26 points, his team buried 24-of-28 free throws, and Valley Center overcame an eight-point second-half deficit to hand the Buffaloes their seventh straight defeat with a 68-60 win in the consolation semifinals of the 2016 January Jam at Hornets Field House.
“Same story, different day,” Garden City Coach Jacy Holloway said afterwards. “We couldn’t score when we needed to, and we didn’t defend.”
But Valley Center (4-7) did something over the final eight minutes that’s not often seen in high school basketball: they won the game at the free throw line.
Trailing by four with five minutes remaining in the fourth, Wyatt Lange buried a 3-pointer from the wing to pull the Hornets to within one 56-55. It was also their last field goal of the night.
Valley Center shot 18 free throws over the final 5:35, hitting on 16 of them. (Tyler) Brown was 14-of-14 from the stripe in the fourth, including the go-ahead two shots that gave the Hornets the lead for good 61-60 with 2:27 remaining.
“Any team shoots that many free throws, and they’re going to win,” Holloway explained. “But we couldn’t stop them in the half court.”
Offensively, Garden City (3-8, 0-3) was rolling. And after Erwin Leal hit a trey from the top of the key, the Buffaloes had a 51-43 advantage with 54 seconds to go in the third.
But the defense let them down again, and Nathan Brown’s 3-pointer to end the period, cut the deficit in half.
“When we get right defensively, our offense will be even better,” Holloway said. “But we’re not there yet.”
Everything went south in the final quarter.
With the Hornets surging ahead from the line, Garden City went the final 3:30 without scoring a single point. Their last field goal was by Edgar Aguliar that gave them a 60-57 edge.
(Tyler) Brown scored 14 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter. It was his 11th 20-point scoring game of the season. Lange tallied 15 points and was 4-of-7 from downtown. Ryan Garcia added 15 and seven rebounds.
Jared Koster scored 22 points on 7-of-18 from the field for Garden City, who lost to Valley Center for the second time in the last three years at the January Jam. Scott Schmidt added 14, including a nine-point third quarter.
“Our guys compete all the way through,” Holloway said. “That’s was so frustrating. They’re fighting, and we’re not getting the results we want.”
24 hours earlier vs. Topeka Seaman, Valley Center came storming out of the gates, building a 14-point first-quarter lead. But the Vikings came all the way back to win by 11.
On Friday, the Hornets took command early again, building a six-point lead, and holding that edge for the first 16:46. It wasn’t until Schmidt’s hook shot with 7:14 to play in the third that the Buffaloes grabbed their first lead. The senior transfer from Holcomb scored the Buffaloes’ first nine points of the period.
Tip ins: Valley Center shot as many free throws in the fourth quarter (18) as the Buffaloes attempted for the entire game…Garden City leads the all-time series 5-4…In 1974, the Buffaloes closed the season by losing their last 11 games to finish 2-18 under Don Winger
Next up: Garden City vs. Ulysses (7th place game)-Saturday, January 23-1:45 p.m. pregame; 2 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr; mobile app: KWKR and tuneinradio app: KWKR