Photo by Adam Shrimplin
Liberal, KS-The old adage goes: great players aren’t always great, they’re just great when they have to be. Kyler Lamb sensed the moment.
The senior, who missed five of his first six shots in the first half, scored 12 of his 14 points over the final 16 minutes plus overtime, Jarrod Springston chipped in 14 points and five boards, and Garden City won their seventh straight, beating Liberal 63-58 Tuesday night at the Big House.
“There were a lot of crazy things that happened in this game,” Head Coach Jacy Holloway said. “We had to use different lineups. Liberal did a good job of going big and then going small. They really made it difficult on us.”
Even more alarming was the status of Carlos Acosta, who left the game in the second half after colliding with Azavier Williams chasing after a loose ball. Afterwards, he was seen with a bandage around his head.
“We’ll have to wait and see what the doctors say,” Holloway said. “But he (Acosta) was on the end of the bench during the end of the game.”
With Acosta grounded for the rest of the night, it was Lamb that took the Buffaloes home.
Trailing by three with less than 10 seconds to go, the senior caught the ball on the right wing. As he drifted right, he let go a fallaway 20 footer. As the shot clanged off the back rim, the lead official called Brody Sumner for a foul, sending the senior to the line. With new life, Lamb answered the bell, splashing home three free throws to tie the game at 52 with eight seconds remaining.
“That was big,” Holloway said. “He (Lamb) came up big when we needed him. He didn’t have the greatest game.”
Liberal still had a chance to win, but Sumner missed a wide-open layup from the right block in the final seconds, sending the game into overtime.
“We dodged a few tonight,” Holloway admitted. “We did what we had to do.”
Lamb, whose shot was off for most of the night, hit the biggest jumper of the game in overtime. With the score tied, the senior darted from the top of the key to left wing before drilling a 3-pointer over Sumner to give the brown and white the lead for good, 57-54 with 2:35 to play.
“This has been our team all year,” Holloway said. “We’ve been in a lot of these close games.”
Lamb added two free throws, Williams and Mason Shaddix combined to hit four freebies over the final 17 seconds, and Garden City grabbed their 16th win of the season. It’s only the seventh time that’s happened in program history.
“We still have work to do,” Holloway said. “But I don’t think anyone saw us being in this position when the season started.”
With a chance to lock up the five seed in the substate standings, Garden City didn’t have the same flow and rhythm that they showed in their win over Hays on Friday. Still, the Buffaloes built an early seven-point lead after Acosta knocked down a midrange jumper that made it 21-14 with 4:03 left in the first half.
But Liberal responded by scoring six straight points, capped off with back-to-back layups by Sumner and Jordan Mendoza that cut the lead to one, 21-20.
“Nothing was easy for us tonight,” Holloway said. “You have to give all the credit to Liberal there.”
Acosta did stymie the Redskins’ run with a triple from the right wing, giving Garden City a 24-20 halftime edge. In the third, Springston’s long ball put Garden City up 29-23 with 6:20 to play in the quarter.
“It was kind of up and down all night,” Holloway said.
Liberal responded again. Hunter Hatcher hit a 3, Syris Dunlap popped free for an open layup, and John Aung hit two free throws to put the Redskins up 32-31. Sumner followed with a three-point play, giving the Redskins a 35-31 lead. It was all part of a 12-2 run.
The Buffaloes countered on the other end when Lamb hit a push shot in the lane and Springston buried a 15 footer. They were down one after three.
“We’ve dealt with adversity in games this year,” Holloway said. “This was a good test.”
After Liberal built the lead back to four in the final period, Williams, who was knocked out briefly following his collision with Acosta, buried a 3 to trim the deficit to one. Then Springston gave Garden City a 44-43 advantage with a midrange pullup. It was one of five lead changes in the fourth.
But every run was met with a Redskins counterstrike.
With the Buffaloes up two following Springston’s 3-pointer, Jordan Mendoza hit his second trey of the period: a set shot from the right corner that put Liberal back up by one. Dunlap added two free throws, and the Redskins were up by three.
Williams finished the night with 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting for Garden City, who won their first Western Athletic Conference title since 2015. Acosta totaled 12 points before exiting.
Sumern poured in 14 for Liberal, who lost their third straight game. Dunlap had 13, and Mendoza scored 12.
Liberal-KS-Keyhana Turner picked a good night to have a career game. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop the second-ranked Redskins from making history.
Machia Mullens scored 18 points, Katie Hornya chipped in 14, and Liberal improved to 20-0 for the first time ever with a 55-35 victory over Garden City Tuesday night at the Big House.
“There’s a lot to build off of this game,” Buffaloes’ Coach Matt Pfeifer said. “This is the best team that we will see all year.”
After losing by 30 to the Redskins back in January, Garden City was game early on. Turner used two aggressive moves to the basket to pull the Buffaloes out of an early 6-0 hole. Garden City was down by five after one.
In the second, after Mullins’ second-chance bucket put Liberal up 17-10, it was Melody Flores drilling a 3 from the top of the key to cut it to four. But the Redskins answered with a 3-pointer by Gilmore and another triple from Whitney Hays, putting the home squad up 28-20 at the break.
“I thought our girls competed,” Pfeifer said. “Defensively, we made them work.”
Early in the third, the Redskins appeared to be running away with it. Mullens knocked down two free throws, Hornya hit a jumper, and Mullins finished off a three-point play, polishing off a 9-0 surge that had the Redskins up by 17, 37-20 with 4:02 to go in the period.
“We took a couple of punches from them,” Pfeifer explained. “But we stayed with it.”
Garden City answered with a brilliant defensive stretch, holding Liberal without a basket the rest of the quarter while scoring the final seven points of the frame to pull within 10 going to the fourth.
“Liberal is arguably the best team in the state,” Pfeifer said. “It’s either them or Derby right now. Obviously, I haven’t seen any of the Kansas City schools. I’m just going with what I’ve seen.”
Seemingly with all the momentum, the Buffaloes went silent to start the fourth. Hay canned a 3, Aubrey Warden hit hook shot in the paint, and Hornya scored in transition, putting Liberal back up by 15. After Turner swished two free throws for Garden City, the Redskins ripped off 11 straight points, building their lead to as many as 24, 55-31 with 1:49 remaining.
Liberal finished the night 20-of-37 from the field (54 percent), 5-of-13 from 3 (38 percent) and 10-of-11 from the line. They outrebounded Garden City 21-19 and turned the ball over only eight times.
Turner scored a career-high 18 points for the Buffaloes, who lost to Liberal for the eighth straight time. Julie Calzonetti added nine, and Flores had six points and three rebounds.