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WAC SHOWDOWNS

Panthers take on No. 5-ranked Dodge tonight

POSTED January 13, 2011 11:55 p.m.

After losing in its season opener on Dec. 3 at Wichita East High School, 57-53, Dodge City has won five straight games heading into tonight’s Western Athletic Conference matchup with Great Bend.

Tipoff is set for around 8 at the DCHS Fieldhouse.

Great Bend (5-3 overall), having played one more WAC game than Dodge City, sits in the early conference lead at 2-0. Dodge (5-1), ranked No. 5 in the latest Kansas Basketball Coaches Association poll, is 1-0 in conference play. The Red Demons throttled Garden City 49-18 the first game back from the holidays on Jan. 4.

“We feel good about our start in the WAC,” said Great Bend head coach Chris Battin, whose Panthers beat Hays 41-38 Tuesday night at home on Greg Hildebrand’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer. “We know it’s not going to be an easy road.

“We’ve been lucky to escape with a couple wins (in conference play), but Dodge City is going to be a real good team. They’re really athletic, they have great guards and really good bigs (post players). Coach (Dennis) Hamilton does a really good job there, so we’re going to have to be ready to go.”

In a late tie ballgame with Hays, Great Bend took the ball out of bounds with four seconds left. Senior guard Will Gray found Hildebrand, a senior swingman, for an open 3-pointer. Hildebrand caught the swing pass with two seconds left, squared his body and let fly his game-winning 3.

“We were lucky enough to maintain our composure for the last shot and lucky enough to hit one,” Battin said.

The Panthers, who opened the season with a 3-1 record, took their lumps in losses to Manhattan High and top-ranked McPherson.

Now they’ve won two in a row to open WAC play.

“We haven’t been 2-0 in the conference in quite a while,” Hildebrand said. “To go into Dodge having a chance to take first place is a really big deal.”

In Dodge City’s most recent game, playing without standouts Brandon Howarth and Rico Hogan, the Class 6A Demons routed 3A Larned 55-22.

Dodge post player Bruce Campbell scored 11 points and guard Trey Hallman added 10 points.

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