Great Bend wins wild New Year opener

Published: Jan. 8, 2021 at 11:21 PM CST
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GREAT BEND, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - The offenses laid low for most of the way during Friday’s 2021 opener in Great Bend. Garden City led 22-13 at the half and the Buffs regained a late lead on a jam from senior Chris Grant. Panther junior Stefan Spray answered with just five seconds remaining to give Great Bend a 39-38 win.

Great Bend erased Garden City’s halftime lead with 2:45 to play in the third when junior Sage Koelsch found the 6-5 Spray in transition for a basket to cap a 10-1 run. Grant answered with a baseline drive in the final minute of the third for Garden City’s lone field goal in the frame. The Buffs still led 25-23 with eight minutes to play.

“We were active on defense, moving around,” Koelsch said. “Everybody was on the ground and everybody was hustling.”

Garden City maintained its lead for much of the fourth, pulling ahead 33-29 with a pair of Isaac Flores free throws with 3:54 to play. Great Bend leveled the score at 35 when junior Paco Hernandez took a turnover coast to coast with 1:50 remaining. Koelsch then stepped to the line on a one-and-one and made both shots for a 37-35 score with 79 ticks left.

Great Bend had the opportunity to ice the game from the line but missed its next free throw. The Panthers grabbed the offensive board but missed the stickback. Buffalo junior Luke Tolbert grabbed the loose ball and found Grant, who slammed it home for a 38-37 Garden City lead with just 16 seconds to play.

The Panthers took advantage of their next inbounds play in front of their own bench. Eventually, Koelsch found Spray inside for a basket with contact with just five ticks on the clock. Garden City was unable to get a shot off in the final seconds of the contest.

“We wanted to get an open shot and get it inside,” said Koelsch. “We had another guy coming around off a screen for a three.”

Both offenses struggled early on. Great Bend scored three of its first five points from the free throw line but still trailed just 10-5 after one quarter.

Tolbert bounced in a 3-pointer for a 15-9 Buffalo lead midway through the third. A Jack Koksal steal led to a Wiese basket as Garden City capped a quick 7-0 run to build the 22-13 halftime lead.

Flores was the exception in the first half with three treys and 11 of his 13 points in the first two quarters. Grant battled foul trouble early and scored seven of his 10 points in the final nine minutes of the game. Buffalo coach Jacy Holloway used 12 players in his squad’s season opener.

Junior Joseph Moeder came off the bench to lead all players with 14 points for Great Bend. Koelsch made all four free throw tries in the fourth quarter to finish with 10 points, five boards, and some big assists, and Spray just missed a double-double with eight points and 10 boards.

Garden City falls to 0-1 in what should be a busy 2021 schedule for the Buffs. Great Bend moves to 3-3 on the season.

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