BY JIM MISUNAS
Timing is everything.
After Garden City was granted a timeout without possession of the basketball, Aileen Becerril converted the game-clinching 3-pointer in the Buffaloes' hard-fought 50-44 Western Athletic Conference basketball victory.
The game's decisive call swung Garden City's way.
The Panthers stole the basketball and Great Bend's Emilee Hall scored what appeared to be the go-ahead basket. But a third official granted Garden City coach Matt Pfeifer a timeout a split-second after the steal.
"That was a big point for momentum," said Great Bend coach Cindy Beck.
Sydney Unruh sank two free throws and Hall scored an inside basket for a 45-44 score. The Panthers missed three golden opportunities to take the lead besides Hall's apparent go-ahead basket. Unruh missed a 3-pointer and Symone Simmons blocked Sadie Spray's shot. Candice Smith missed a tying free throw with 1:39 left.
After Becerril drilled her fifth 3-pointer for a 48-44 lead, the Buffaloes added two clinching free throws. Becerril scored a game high 20 points. She converted five 3-pointers with little defensive pressure. Julie Calzonetti added 12 points.
"When they needed it, she knocked it down," Beck said.
The Panthers had rallied from an 8-point deficit with an inspired second-half effort against a taller and more physical Garden City team playing their first basketball game. Sparkplug Halle Latham led the Panthers with 12 points and Unruh added 10 points.
Panthers Ashlyn Harbaugh, Candice Smith and Halle Latham each scored two baskets for a 36-36 tie with 8 of 13 shooting. Garden City converted 3 of 10 field goals in the quarter against the Panthers' pressure defense.
"We had momentum when we forced some turnovers and got a couple buckets," Beck said. "That's an advantage for us. We worked and kept going at them. Our second half, we showed more energy. We adjusted."
The Panthers converted 3 of 15 field goals in the fourth quarter to come up just shy. It was a tough home setback for Great Bend (3-3, 0-1 WAC) which should challenge Garden City (1-0, 1-0 WAC) for third place in the league.
"We took a lot of good shots, but they didn't fall for us," Beck said. "We have to continue to work hard until we get a good, solid shot. Defensively, we did some good things. We compete and don't back down. They cheer each other on."
The Buffaloes' Becerril hit a trio of 3-pointers for 11 points for a 23-18 halftime lead over Great Bend's girls. The Buffaloes showed off an effective pressure defense and kept control with aggressive defense that limited the Panthers to 5 of 21 first-half shooting.
Latham sparked the Panthers with seven first-half points. Other than Latham, the Panthers made 3 of 18 field goals with eight turnovers.
Beck was proud of the Panthers' effort heading to Tuesday's WAC showdown against Hays High.
"We've got to knock down free throws and take advantage of what we can control. We'll play them again and we won't back down. I'm very proud of them."
Garden City 12 11 13 14 — 50
Great Bend 9 9 18 8 — 44
GC (1-0, 1-0)—Becerril 6-13 3-4 20, Calzonetti 3-8 6-8 12, Simmons 3-5 0-4 6, Turner 2-8 1-2 5, Gallegos 2-10 1-4 5, Jagels 0-0 0-1 0, Flores 0-0 2-2 2, Totals 16-44 13-25 50
GB (0-1, 3-3)—Halle Latham 4-10 1-3 12, Sydney Unruh 3-16 3-4 10, Candice Smith 3-4 2-5 8, Sadie Spray 2-8 1-2 5, Ashlyn Harbaugh 2-2 1-2 5, Taryn Warren 1-1 0-0 2, Allyson Kaiser 0-4 0-0 0, Emilee Hall 1-3 0-0 2, Totals 16-48 8-16 44
3-pointers—GC 5-15 (Becerril 5-11, Calzonetti 0-2, Turner 0-1, Gallegos 0-1), GB 4-17 (Latham 3-6, Unruh 1-8, Spray 0-2, Kaiser 0-1)