JUNCTION CITY — Only four games into the season, the Great Bend High School Lady Panthers have already matched last year’s win output.
Great Bend endured a nightmarish 3-18 basketball campaign in 2011-12, but the past is the past.
Taking on Class 6A Junction City on Friday night, the 5A Lady Panthers built an early lead, withstood every rush the host school mustered thereafter and held on down the stretch for a 51-43 victory at Schenk Gymnasium, improving their record to 3-1.
“The girls played really well,” Lady Panthers first-year head coach Carrie Minton said. “We started out playing the type of ballgame we want to play, getting up and down the floor, and it was tough matching up against Junction City with all their height.
“Their players were considerably bigger than ours, so it was nice to be able to fight through some of the adversity in a very physical game and still get up and down the floor. We had our fast-break layups and we applied tough defensive pressure. It was nice to get the win.”
GBHS blitzed Junction with a 12-1 surge during the opening six minutes, five seconds of the game in building a 14-5 lead after one quarter. It set the tone for the rest of the way, leaving the Lady Jays playing catch-up.
Out of the gate, guard McKenna Mauler hit a driving layup, post player Morgan Harwood converted a three-point play and guard-forward Kylee Spray knocked down a 3-pointer from the right wing, as the Lady Panthers were off and running.
Junction City (1-1), which had four players that were 5-foot-11 or taller, carved into Great Bend’s lead during the second quarter. Post players Kori Kamm and Peyton Pender combined for 14 first-half points, as the Lady Jays closed the gap to 22-17 at intermission.
Even though Junction City continued its comeback in the third quarter, briefly moving ahead 31-28, GBHS answered with an 11-1 surge to seize control, highlighted by Mauler and guard Regan Unruh sandwiching another Harwood three-point play with 3-pointers for a 39-32 edge.
Guards Kelsie Doll and Kaylie Doll also helped spearhead the Lady Panthers’ transition game, as did Mauler and forwards Tarynn Stueder and Hannah Hildebrand.
Great Bend then scored 18 fourth-quarter points to put the game away.
“We told the girls that they just needed to make sure they have confidence in what they do and we could withstand everything they threw at us,” Minton said. “It was nice to see that the girls didn’t panic. They continued to play their game and maintained their composure.
“When were able to pick it up defensively, we just kept applying the pressure and it led to some easy baskets.”
Harwood finished with a trio of three-point plays and totaled a season-high 16 points.
“It feels really good that we’re getting things going,” Harwood said. “We’re actually feeling positive.
“It feels really nice to be able to finish on my free throws after making two points and getting the three-point plays. I credit my teammates for helping me out.”
Unruh finished with eight points, Spray totaled seven points, and Mauler and Stueder each scored six. The Dolls added four apiece.
HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
At Junction City
Great Bend 51, Junction City 43
GREAT BEND (3-1)
Hannah Hildebrand 0 0-0 0, Kelsie Doll 2 0-0 4, Kylee Spray 2 2-2 7, Regan Unruh 3 1-2 8, Kaylie Doll 2 0-2 4, McKenna Mauler 2 1-2 6, Tarynn Stueder 3 0-0 6, Morgan Harwood 6 4-5 16. Totals 20 13-18 51.
JUNCTION CITY (1-1)
Abby Cullen 0 1-2 1, Brenna Waterman 0 0-0 0, Cassidy Meadows 0 0-0 0, Kealee Raines 5 0-0 10, Shanna Witt 2 0-0 4, Kori Kamm 7 2-3 16, Peyton Pender 5 0-0 10, A’kia Fain 1 0-0 2. Totals 20 3-5 43.
Great Bend 14 8 11 18 — 51
Junction City 5 12 14 12 — 43
Three-point goals — Great Bend (Spray, Unruh, Mauler); Junction City (None).