Valley Center, KS-The big question mark coming into Thursday’s opener at the January Jam was just how much rust Garden City would show after not playing for nine days.
“I do expect a little,” Head Coach Jacy Holloway said before the game.
Well, he got a little more than he bargained for, but in the end, Garden City did something they hadn’t done in nearly six years.
Kyler Lamb recorded his first double-double with 13 points and a career-best 14 rebounds, Jarrod Springton and Carlos Acoseta each added 11, and the Buffaloes beat Wichita Northwest 44-39 at Hornets Field House, earning their first opening-round victory at the January Jam since 2013.
“It wasn’t pretty to watch; that’s for sure,” Holloway said with a smile. “But I’m glad we got the win.”
Garden City missed their first seven shots from the field while Wichita Northwest clanged their first nine. In fact, neither team scratched for the first four minutes of the contest.
“We just didn’t look comfortable in the first half, and I felt like we were rushing things,” Holloway added.
Springston’s layup followed by Acosta’s floater and Riley Muniz’s bunny from the block gave the Buffaloes a 6-0 advantage. On the other end, the defense ratcheted up the pressure, holding the Grizzlies scoreless until Percelle Finch’s second-chance bucket with two seconds remaining in the quarter got Wichita Northwest on the board.
“It was something that we expected,” Holloway said. “It just took us a little while to get going.”
While the Buffaloes never trailed in the first half, it seemed like they were carrying a two-ton weight on their backs. And when Lincoln Phillips nailed a 3-pointer from the wing in the final 20 seconds of the second quarter, Garden City was up only one going into the locker room.
Wichita Northwest kept attacking in the third quarter, taking their first lead on Kale Patterson’s hook in the lane that made it 17-15 with 5:47 to play in the period.
“I think nerves played a big part in our struggles; especially in the first half,” Holloway said. “Then there was more pressure on them.”
Those nerves finally dissipated midway through the third. Lamb, Springston, Kelvon Bennett and Acosta spearheaded a 9-0 run that put the Buffaloes back on top 24-17. The capper during that stretch: Acosta’s nifty and-1 finish.
“I don’t think any of our guys had good games,” Holloway said. “But with all of that, it feels good to come away with the win.”
Garden City did build their lead to as many as 12 on Azavier Williams layup with 3:35 remaining in the fourth. But the Grizzlies never went away, and David Duncan’s 3-pointer with eight seconds on the clock, pulled Wichita Northwest to within three, 42-39.
“We let them get back in the game,” Holloway explained.
Lamb eventually put an end to Wichita Northwest’s crazy comeback, hitting two free throws in the final five seconds, moving the Buffaloes into Friday night’s semifinals vs. Maize South.
“I’m happy we advanced,” Holloway said. “This tournament always gives a sense of the teams that we will be facing in our substate.”
Garden City turned in their second-worst shooting performance of the season, finishing 18-of-51 (35 percent). They were just 1-of-11 on 3’s.
Deandre Wilson scored 11 points for Wichita Northwest, who dropped to 4-8 all-time vs. Garden City. Eastyn Ruffin had eight points and a season-high 10 rebounds.
Next up: Garden City vs. Maize South-Friday, Jan. 18-6:15 p.m. pregame; 6:30 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app