Buffaloes cough up double-digit lead; fall to Newton
Newton, KS-Oh how things can change in a matter of minutes.
Such was the case on Friday, when Garden City suffered a heart-breaking defeat, one that had Head Coach Matt Pfeifer absolutely perplexed.
DesiRay Kernal finished with 11 points and nine rebounds, Megan Bartel hit a clutch 3 in the final minute, and Newton overcame an 11-point deficit and a horrendous shooting day to beat Garden City 35-33 in the consolation semifinals of the 43rd annual Newton Invitational at Ravenscroft Gymnasium. It was the Buffaloes 13th straight loss in the NIT.
“We didn’t finish,” Pfeifer said. “They made plays down the stretch, and we didn’t.”
In hopes of bouncing back from a poor shooting night on Thursday vs. Andover Central, Pfeifer held an early-morning shootaround at Bethel College.
“I told our girls that if you find a shot you like, take it,” Pfeifer said. “Take the shots that you’re used to and want to take.”
The philosophy appeared to work in the first quarter. The Buffaloes came out on fire, hitting 4 of their first 6 shots, and when Elyssa Salazar buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key, Garden City (6-5, 1-1) had a 10-0 lead. They held Newton scoreless the first five minutes, and led 12-4 going to the second.
“We played our game early on,” Pfeifer explained. “But the shots stopped falling.”
The Buffaloes extended to their largest lead of the half 30 seconds into the second when Salazar knocked down her second trey, making it 15-4. But the next seven minutes were definitely a struggle.
The Railers answered with six straight points to cut the Buffaloes’ lead to five. Once Garden City built it back to nine, Bartel and Jenisa Cornejo canned back-to-back triples, pulling Newton to within three, 19-16 at the half.
Incredibly, Newton missed all 10 of their shots in the third quarter but still managed to pull within two at the end of the period.
“I thought defensively, we played really well at times,” Pfeifer said. “Keyhana (Turner) did what she was supposed to against their best player.”
In the fourth, Garden City seemingly put the game away when Julie Calzonetti hit a 17-foot pullup followed by Taryn Tabor’s triple from the right wing that put the Buffaloes in front 33-27 with 2:49 left. Unfortunately, they never scored again.
Bartel banged home a 3 with 36 seconds to play to make it a three-point contest. Then, following a Garden City turnover, Lindsey Antonowich put back a Cornejo missed trey, pulling the Railers to within one, 33-32 with 27 seconds on the clock.
“I felt like they just killed us on the glass,” Pfeifer said. “We just didn’t finish plays.”
Garden City had a chance to make it a three-point game once Calzonetti was fouled. But the sophomore missed the front end of the 1-and-1, giving the home team a chance to win it.
Following a timeout, first-year Newton coach Justin Schneider put the ball in Kernal’s hands. And the senior delivered. She drove into the paint and hit a running layup over Turner’s outstretched arms to give Newton a one-point edge with three seconds remaining.
“Give her credit, she made a play,” Pfeifer said. “I thought it was defended pretty well.”
With no timeouts, Rodriguez drove the length of the floor. As she reached the right baseline, there appeared to be enough contact to warrant a foul. But the referees swallowed their whistle, and Pfeifer let them hear it, drawing a technical foul with less than a second to play. Bartel hit 1-of-2 free throws for Newton, and just like that the game was over.
“I felt there was enough contact that Felicity should have been at the line,” Pfeifer said. “But they didn’t see it that way.”
The Railers found a way back in the game despite shooting just 24 percent (12-of-29). They missed their first nine shots from the field and their first nine 3’s. They finished 3-of-27 from beyond the arc.
Salazar scored 10 to pace Garden City, who lost their fourth straight game after a 6-1 start. Calzonetti added six, and Turner had six points and tied a season-high with nine rebounds.
Next up: Garden City vs. Kapaun Mt. Carmel-Saturday, Jan. 26-12:15 p.m. pregame; 12:30 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app