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Panther girls unleash their defense
Sadie Spray2


BUHLER — Great Bend Panther Sadie Spray was simply on fire. Spray ignited a swarming full-court Panther defense with sparkling play. Time-after-time, Panther pressure turned into Buhler turnovers in a shocking 62-33 non-league basketball victory Tuesday.

There was little hint of the Panthers' dominance after a modest 15-9 first-quarter lead.

The Panthers scored 28 second-quarter points in a stunning display of offensive and defensive basketball for a 43-18 halftime lead. 

The freshman Spray led the on-ball defense that turned 20 Buhler first-half turnovers into extra shots and productive offense. Spray scored 11 first-half points en route to a career high 16 points, six second-chance points, a pair of first-quarter assists and several steals.

"Our key was our energy level was up from the beginning," Spray said. "Overall, we played really good basketball. We were active defensively. We saw the basketball and took it away."

The Panthers (6-8) have exceeded last year's five-win total with six games remaining. Point guard Sydney Unruh was spectacular as usual with 14 points, a trio of 3-pointers and several steals and assists. Halle Latham converted a pair of 3-pointers for 10 points. Spray and Candice Smith also converted 3-pointers for 7 of 15 shooting from long range.  

By halftime, the Panthers' 43 points exceeded their average of 40 points per game.

Great Bend coach Cindy Beck had preached that the Panthers were close to breaking through with a complete game. It finally happened against a pesky Buhler team.

"We put all those parts of our game together — offense, defense and shooting," Beck said. "As a team, we kept making that extra pass that gave us a better shot."

Everything fit together perfectly after a solid first quarter. Great Bend converted 11 of 18 second-quarter field goals while forcing 11 Buhler turnovers. The Panthers scored 12 second-chance points by crashing the offensive boards.

"Our press gave us momentum," Beck said. "The girls saw the floor really well tonight. All our girls ran the floor tonight to give us some fast-break points."

Buhler (3-12) showed flashes of brilliance for a young team. Taryn Horning, Lauren Specht and Maren Lackey each scored six points. Lackey hit a pair of 3-pointers. But the Crusaders were unable to overcome 27 turnovers.

The Panthers journey to Garden City Thursday for a Western Athletic Conference rematch, a day earlier than scheduled because of wintry weather. The girls game is scheduled to start at 6:05 p.m.

Great Bend 15 28 15 4 — 62

Buhler 9 9 10 5 — 33

GREAT BEND (6-8)—Spray 7-14 1-1 16, Sydney Unruh 4-12 3-4 14, Latham 3-6 2-2 10, Harbaugh 3-7 2-2 8, Warren 1-1 0-0 2, Kaiser 1-5 0-0 2, Smith 1-4 0-0 3, Hall 3-6 1-2 7, Premer 0-1 0-0 0, Tinkler 0-0 0-1 0, Totals 23-56 9-12 62

BUHLER (3-12)—Lackey 2-4 0-0 6, Horning 3-7 0-0 6, Specht 2-4 2-3 6, Hanen 2-9 0-0 4, Stallman 1-1 2-2 4, Mattison 1-4 2-2 4, McDowell 0-1 1-2 1, Yutzy 0-3 0-2 0, Seely 1-4 0-0 2, Totals 12-42 7-11 33

3-pointers—GB 7-15 (Unruh 3-6, Latham 2-2, Spray 1-1, Smith 1-3, Kaiser 0-3), B 2-10 (Lackey 2-4, Matteson 0-1, Horning 0-2,  Hanen 0-1, Yutzy 0-2)