The Garden City girls basketball team has never won a Western Athletic Conference title. Friday night that changed. The Lady Buffs clinched their first WAC championship with their win against Hays 47-43 and maintained their flawless 7-0 WAC record. It certainly wasn't an easy win. The Lady Buffs head coach David Upton said at halftime he was concerned he would have to put the WAC champions shirts back in the closet.
The first quarter ended on a lay up by Garden City freshman Jessica Carillo which tied the score at eight. The Lady Indians took control in the second half. Their defense shut down Garden City's dominant inside attack. At halftime the Lady Indians had the lead 22-16 but Upton said he knew he had to spark a fire in his girls.
"We went in there and we talked to them about the shots," he said. "We only hit 7 shots out of 26 or 25 shots. We weren’t making shots and I told them we needed to come out in the second half and make shots and just keep playing our game. As poorly as we were playing we were only down six and I told them, 'You need to be tested.' We haven’t been really tested. Every win we have had has been by an average of 16 points so we needed a test. We needed to see what we were made of and they came out and responded."
The Lady Buffs regrouped. They came out hard with their full-court press and forced the Lady Indians to turn the ball over. The scale tipped in Garden's favor toward the end of the third. Junior guard Jacksenie Tornero hit a buzzer-beating three to cut the lead to one point at the end of the third 31-30.
The final straw came with four minutes left in the game. Junior guard Kennedy Brunson nailed a three bomb to give Garden City it's first lead 38-37. The Lady Buffs will to win was insurmountable and as a team they grinded out the win 47-43. Junior guard Taryn Tempel said the win was a huge shot of momentum for her and her teammates.
"We’ve been working for this goal and we have it on our board," she said. "It’s never been done before and I think that we’ve just had such good chemistry all year. We knew this game was a big one and to win it not only just to win it but to do it 7-0 when we still have one more is incredible. As a team we are so excited, as a family we are so excited, and now that this is by we’re ready to focus on other things and we are hoping to make it to state."
Upton said he thinks winning the WAC championship will have a profound impact on the community and will enhance the girls basketball program in the future.
"This is a great thing for the community," he said. "I want to get the girls program here from the little girls on up excited about playing basketball here and what better to do that with than a championship."
The Garden City boys didn't have a WAC championship on the line against Hays but they did have sub-state home court advantage riding on a win. Although the Buffs started out strong, the Indians took home the win 45-36.
Hays sophomore post Brady Werth was the player the Buffs wanted to keep the ball away from. All week they had worked on a defense designed to keep opponents out of the lane but the Buffs had a hard time shutting Werth down. His size was a huge factor as he posted a double- double against the Buffs.
At halftime the Buffs were within four points 17-13. That seemed manageable but that guy the Buffs wanted to shut down went off with 12 points in the third quarter alone.
The closest scorer for Garden was Caleb Tramp with 10 points overall. The Buffs only had five different players score and they were outrebounded 40-21.
The Buffs attempted to battle back but the Indians balanced their attack with a mix of perimeter and paint points. Finally the Indians pound in the victory 45-36. A big win for Hays that will hurt Garden City’s sub-state standings.