Garden City, KS (WesternKansasNews.com) – As I sit here writing this a few days removed from Garden City High School’s heartbreaking loss to Junction City in the Sub-State Championship I thought about writing a traditional year-end recap, but that simply wouldn’t do this team justice. This team deserved way more than just a year-end recap so instead, I want to tell a story from my point of view and really just say thanks to this team for what they have done for not only me but for this community. This will be a little bit different than you’re usual recap post but here it goes.
Dear Garden City Boys Basketball,
I won’t forget the moment I met boys’ basketball coach Jeff Williamson. While he may or may not remember I certainly do. Some of you may know of you might not know but my fiance Serenity and I moved to Garden City this past July, fresh out of college, and picked our life up to move from Indiana 16 hours away to a city neither of us has heard of. Still, we took a leap of faith and moved to Garden City in hopes of starting both of our professional careers together in a place we could grow and learn (while Serenity wasn’t as sold as I was I have her to thank for saying yes). If you know anything about Indiana high school basketball is king. Everyone packs the gym on Friday nights to see their team play, High School basketball is the big ticket. So when I took the job to be the voice of the Buffaloes, naturally the first question I asked was; how is the basketball team? What I heard back was cautious but mixed results and I learned they had a newer head coach who was now in just his second year with the team. I didn’t know what to think but was excited to finally get to town and learn more.
I won’t forget that day I stepped into Garden City Athletic Director Drew Thon’s office still trying to find my way around town and dealing with the summer heat (Which we still struggle with from time to time). In that office sat Jeff Williamson a stern man with a West Virginian accent who laid out his plan and coaching style for his program. For the first time since our move, I felt at home. Listening to coach I could tell he understood what it took to move a program and establish a culture it felt like I was back in Indiana covering some of the great coaches I’ve had the pleasure of covering. I knew right then at this season was going to be special with Jeff Williamson at the helm.
Months would pass on, and I would get the opportunity to meet so many great people and cover a fantastic season of Garden City Football, but I was still waiting for basketball. Mix that with the fact that Serenity and I were still struggling to feel at home in our new city. The truth was we just couldn’t break that shell and fully jump in. When the basketball season started everything changed.
In November we joined the team in Colorado Springs for the Coronado Tip-off Tournament where the boys went 3-0 with three impressive victories. The time away was amazing and I think that was the first weekend where we started to feel like ourselves again. This was a lovable team, one where you cared about every player on the roster and you could see how much they cared about each other. I was excited for the rest of the city to see what I had seen in Colorado.
Following that stretch, Garden City played in the Roundball taking down the field of three teams once again to move to 6-0 on the year. Now the buzz was starting to build around the program but still, questions remained what would happen when conference play started? Still, though more people would approach us before the game to talk and say hi. These are conversations that we would both grow to love and will certainly miss in the coming months.
Mix in one more win before winter break and the team was now 7-0 right before conference play began. Garden City would open up conference play with a gutty road win at Great Bend, and then another close one at Hays which was the Indian’s first loss at home since 2019. Now the pressure began to build and the team headed to Valley Center in January. The story of the tournament? If Garden City would win two games in a row they would hold the record for the best start in program history. Just two days later they easily did just that with wins over Sunrise Christan and Wichita Northwest that set up a championship game with reining 6A State Champions Wichita Heights. While that day the streak came to the end at 12 games in a close contest that saw Garden City lead as late as the 3rd quarter the rumors would be put to rest that this team wasn’t special.
There would be a few close calls the rest of the way but for the most part, the Buffaloes glided to a 19-1 record and 8-0 mark in the WAC to win the conference and have the best regular season in program history. With this momentum, more people came to games and more people wanted to see what was happening in The Garden every Tuesday and Friday night, that all culminated into last Friday. Those who came saw The Garden as full as ever before teeming with school spirit and pride.
While the end result wasn’t what the boys wanted I wanted to take the time to let them know. Thank you for delivering one of the most magical seasons I have ever gotten to be a part of because of my silly job of talking into a microphone. I had the opportunity to watch all these young men become a team that should be proud of what they did for their community. Led by that same stern coach from West Virginia that I met all the way back in July. While it might be hard to look at now you have every reason to be proud of this season.
I want to thank each senior for their contributions to the team, and community, and the time they gave me this season. I know you will all go on to do great things and it was an honor to cover you in your final season playing basketball. I also want to thank Jeff Williamson for his time in every pregame conversation, coaches show, and of course postgame, but also for helping me feel at home for the first time since moving to Garden City.
Thank you Garden City boys basketball for an incredible season and for helping two people from Northern Indiana find a home in Southwest Kansas.
All the best,
Baylen Hite | Voice of the Buffaloes