BY MACK McCLURE
The Great Bend High School Panthers basketball team hangs its hat on trying to beat an opponent different ways.
Last Saturday in a 40-39 overtime road triumph over Manhattan High, the Panthers relentlessly attacked the rim, which was a determining factor in the outcome.
Against Garden City on Homecoming Friday night at Panther Fieldhouse, the Panthers used a different method, a deliberate strategy of slowing things down to slow down Garden City.
Patiently rotating the basketball around the perimeter in trying to get the high-percentage shot, Great Bend used a 7-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to register a 52-46 Western Athletic Conference victory.
“They did a great job of running offense,” said Garden City head coach Jacy Holloway, who knows something about passing and called Great Bend as methodically “the most deliberate team we’ve faced.”
Holloway starred at point guard at Iowa State, averaging 5.9 assists during his senior season in 1996-97 in the Big 12 Conference. He was an all-state selection out of Moundridge before heading to Ames, Iowa. This is his first season in Garden City.
“Great Bend hurt us early mentally because we would play defense for 40 to 50 seconds and then they’d work it around and get an open look.”
It worked throughout the game, and then the Panthers took charge down the stretch.
“(Great Bend) does a really good job of beating you whenever you get tired or if you slip up a little bit, they’re going to hit a shot,” Holloway said. “They found our weakness and they hurt us.
“Screens and spacing, it’s going to be about spacing when you talk about Great Bend. They do a good job of putting you in tough situations.”
Dakota Ellis hit a tiebreaking three-point play with 3:54 left in regulation, giving the Panthers a 41-38 edge. Jace Bowman then hit two free throws and a basket to up the margin 45-38.
The Buffs, forced to foul, put Matt Marshall at the free-throw line with 59.5 seconds left. He made the second of two free throws. Ellis then drew a charging foul on Garden’s Jake Curran, and the Panthers were able to seal the deal.
Greg Hildebrand, playing in the post with the absence of Roderick Frise, led Great Bend with 13 points. Bowman had 12 points and Ellis totaled 11.
“We are starting to realize that we don’t have to take the first shot and that we can get in our offense,” GBHS head coach Chris Battin said. “When you’re more patient, you end up with a wide-open shot and we proved that (Friday night).
“We got it inside, working some high-low and doing some different things there. We passed up some 3s to get the ball inside and I was happy with our execution.”
Great Bend, which plays at Hoisington in a non-conference makeup game on Tuesday night, improved to 9-7 overall and 3-2 in conference play.
Garden City, which was led by Curran’s four 3-pointers and 16 points, dropped to 7-9, 1-4.
The Panthers were a rock-solid 14 for 18 from the foul line.