April 15, 2024

Buffaloes Storm Back, Beat Liberal in Regular Season Finale

Garden City High School boys basketball team hosted Dodge City High School on Tuesday, February 13, 2024 at The Garden in Garden City, Kan. The Buffaloes defeated the Red Demons 56 - 52. Photo credits; Adam Shrimplin, Shrimplin Photography

LIBERAL, Kan. – Luke Swedberg’s first season showed one common flaw; Garden City’s inability to perform away from home. Specifically, third quarters had wrecked the Buffaloes’ chances away from The Garden.

Their final road game saw the script flip, just in time before substate basketball.

The Garden City Buffaloes completed the season sweep over the Liberal Redskins, completing a 13-point comeback to win, 72-65. The victory marked the Buffaloes’ first dub away from home in Swedberg’s tenure.

Garden City’s best this season came when their three-point shooting was at its peak, sharing the basketball. They did that at The Big House, but what set the game apart was the team’s defense.

“We got a lot of contributions from everybody tonight,” Swedberg praised. “We stepped up defensively in the second half, played a much better second half on the defensive side of the floor.”

The Buffaloes trailed, 33-20, in the second quarter. The Redskins jumped out on fire, with seniors Brooks Kappelman and Zayden Martinez combining for 18 points in the first half.

Liberal (5-14, 0-7 WAC) entered Tuesday just a half game above Topeka for the final spot in 6A west substates. They played with a fight and desperation that had been missing all season, up until their Senior Night.

“Liberal’s a good team. They play hard, they share the basketball,” Swedberg said. “[Martinez, Kappelman, James Fieser] are all really good players.”

Instead of being overwhelmed, Garden City (9-11, 4-4 WAC) matched that intensity.

The Buffaloes countered with some key and-ones to bring the game back within two possessions. Thomas Longa and Brody Burns both completed three-point plays, marking a 23-point second quarter for Garden City.

This season had seen the same narrative countless times. Tied with Goodland at the half, ahead against Dodge City, down just two possessions against eventual-WAC Champions Hays. The third quarter took GCHS out of these games, but not Tuesday night’s.

The Buffaloes stormed out of the gates hot. Garden City went on a 10-2 run out of halftime to swing back in front for the first time since the first quarter. Garden City held Liberal to just nine points in the third quarter, leaping ahead by seven.

“I saw a team that was more aggressive… almost played with a little bit more of a sense of urgency and desperation,” Swedberg noted. “We were getting a few more tips on basketballs, which led to some runouts.”

Junior Raul Munoz was lights-out for Garden City, scoring 11 points in the second half. The Buffaloes’ guard finished Tuesday with a career-high 20 points.

The fourth quarter initially was all GCHS, taking an 11-point advantage, yet that lead diminished. Kappelman and Fieser combined for some late buckets, with Fieser drilling a right corner three to bring the game within one.

The Buffaloes limited the Redskins to just one point in the final 90 seconds, cementing a great come-from-behind road victory.

Throughout the handshake line, the smiles of the Buffaloes squad spread ear-to-ear. A game they had to wait nearly three months for, but at long last, the celebrations of victory away from Garden City.

“It felt so great in [the locker room], I’m just genuinely happy for the entire team,” Swedberg said.
Garden City finishes their regular season with a record of nine wins and 11 losses. The Buffaloes locked up 12th place in 6A West with their win and Dodge City’s loss at Hays, and can now finish as high as 10th, depending on results later this week.

The Buffaloes’ first round of substates will be on the road next Wednesday. Time, setting, and opponent are still to be determined until Friday.

Luke Swedberg Interview