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Great Bend Panthers’ defense sets tone
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Great Bend High School’s Ashlyn Harbaugh drives in for a layup against Junction City on Tuesday night. The Panthers overwhelmed the Blue Jays in their home opener, 60-25. - photo by JIM MISUNAS Great Bend Tribune

The Great Bend girls play basketball like they practice with a fierce competitive spirit.

The Panthers executed a fearless style, attacking offensively and defensively for a dominating 60-25 non-league basketball victory over Junction City. The Panthers played fullcourt defense from the outset and converted 33 Junction City turnovers into extra possessions.

The Panthers held the Blue Jays without a field goal for 25 consecutive offensive possessions to start the game. The only statistic that prevented a larger margin was the Panthers’ 11 of 38 free throw shooting.

The opening quarter was a stunning display of defensive intensity. The Panthers forced 14 turnovers and the Blue Jays missed their first 10 field goal attempts until Alyssa Grygier broke a 7-minute stretch without a field goal.

“We believed we could pressure their guards effectively, and once their guards gave up the basketball, we knew we could turn them over,” said Great Bend coach Carrie Minton. “These girls are competitive and they play with tremendous effort. We knew it’d be a physical game and our girls were prepared for that. We practice that way every day.”

Jenna Mauler led the perimeter and ballhandling game with 14 points and 11 free throws attempted. Super sophomore Candice Smith scored 14 points off 7 of 9 shooting. Fellow sophomore Ashlyn Harbaugh scored 13 points inside, 11 in the first half.  

The Panthers effectively attacked the basket with drives to the basket that drew fouls. The Panthers also did a solid job retrieving misses to give themselves extra chances against a tall and  physical Junction City basketball team.

“We thought our offense would be effective against their style of defense,” Minton said. “We were able to stretch their defense out and attack to the basket. We always have to hustle for rebounds because the other team always has height. We’re used to that. We were really pleased with everyone’s effort tonight.” 

Junction City (0-2) was paced by Alyssa Grygier with 11 points on 3 of 16 shooting. Mellena Davis added seven points. The Blue Jays converted 6 of 34 field goals.

Great Bend (1-3) returns home Friday against Salina Central, a perennial 5A state qualifier.

JC    4   8   9  4 — 25

GB  15 19 20  6 — 60

JC (0-2)—Harris 0-1 0-3 0; Mellana Davis 1-4 5-6 7; Ramirez 1-3 2-2 4; Grygier 3-16 4-8 11; Escobar 0-1 1-2 1; Nicholson 0-3 0-0 0; Andrea Davis 1-5 0-2 2; Lechuga 0-1 0-2 0; Totals 6-34 12-25 25.

GB (1-3)—Keller 0-3 1-2 1; Schroeder 2-3 1-2 6; Mauler 4-11 6-11 14; Kaylee Unruh 0-2 0-0 0; Sydney Unruh 2-8 0-4 2; Warren 2-5 1-2 5; Harbaugh 6-11 1-5 13; Wasinger 0-1 0-4 0; Latham 1-3 1-4 3; Smith 7-9 0-2 14; Steele Brack 0-0 0-2 0; Totals 24-61 11-38 60.

3-point goals—JC 1-11 (Grygier 1-9, Ramirez 0-1, Nicholson 0-1), GB 1-8 (Keller 0-3, Schroeder 1-1, Mauler 0-2, K. Unruh 0-1, S. Unruh 0-1)