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Garden City survives season opener in Great Bend

Published: Jan. 8, 2021 at 11:24 PM CST
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GREAT BEND, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Entering the New Year, most high school basketball teams around Kansas usually have five or six games under their belt. Not in the coronavirus season. Garden City opened 2021 and its 2020-21 season Friday night with a 50-44 win in Great Bend.

“Everybody had a moratorium but I still think we’re at a bit of a disadvantage because we’re going to have a ton of games here and we didn’t get to practice that whole time either,” said Lady Buff coach Matt Pfeifer. “It wasn’t just that we weren’t playing games, we didn’t practice. We’re really going on short practice. It’s really about the kids making plays.”

Some early-season legs might explain Garden City’s falter after leading by as many as 10 points in the second quarter. Great Bend pulled ahead 32-30 late in the third quarter and hung around at 45-41 with less than two minutes to play.

“It was about the end of the second quarter, we wanted to take care of the basketball and limit possessions,” Pfeifer said. “We were dealing with some foul trouble. Great Bend did a good job making some shots, speeding us up, making us turn it over too much. I thought that’s where we let them get back in the game.”

Great Bend trailed 23-18 at the half but closed the gap with a take from senior Sydney Unruh midway through the third. Senior Halle Latham grabbed an offensive board and scored for the first Lady Panther lead since a 3-0 start to the night. A Latham trey gave the Lady Panthers their biggest lead of the night at 32-20 with 2:12 to play in the third.

Garden City regained the lead on sophomore Aileen Becerrill’s fourth 3-pointer of the night. The teams battled back and forth from there to a 36-36 tie heading into the fourth. The Lady Buffs hit the bonus in the third but went just 6 for 11 from the stripe in the period.

“It was big to play aggressively,” Pfeifer said. “Obviously we’d like to make more free throws but that’s something we can work on and fix. It’s something you can’t dwell on. If you’re getting to the line you’re doing something right.”

Garden City senior Symone Simmons battles Great Bend freshman Sadie Spray for a loose ball.
Garden City senior Symone Simmons battles Great Bend freshman Sadie Spray for a loose ball.(Mike Courson)

Senior Julie Calzonetti scored on a putback and foul just 25 seconds into the final frame, then sophomore Amaya Gallegos added a steal and basket seconds later. All of a sudden the gap was back to 41-36.

Great Bend got as close as 45-44 on a Candice Smith free throw with 1:39 remaining but Becerriil had the answer with yet another triple. She led all players with 20 points, including five shots from behind the arc. Calzonetti added 12 points and nine boards, Symone Simmons scored six points, and Gallegos and Keyhana Turner split 10 points. Turner also grabbed seven rebounds.

Latham scored all 12 of her points in the first three quarters for Great Bend. She also grabbed a team-high seven boards. Unruh added 10 points, and Smith scored eight points.

Garden City opens its season at 1-0. Great Bend falls to 2-4 on the season.

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