DODGE CITY – The Great Bend boys basketball team was on target to hit rock bottom starting its toughest road stretch of the basketball season.
The previously winless Dodge City Red Demons held off Great Bend’s furious rally for a 49-40 Western Athletic Conference basketball victory Tuesday. The Red Demons scored their final seven points at the free throw line as Luke Gleason converted four free throws.
The Panthers were down 37-22 to Dodge City after three periods when sparkplug Konner Ireland showed the way with several hustling defensive plays and a pair of 3-pointers. Kody Crosby drilled a 3-pointer and Jacob Murray drilled two baskets to draw the Panthers within 42-40 with 1:18 left for a 18-5 run. The Panthers forced 23 turnovers and scored 19 points off the mistakes.
“It’s a common theme that we would like to change,” said Great Bend coach Tim Brooks. “We caused a lot of turnovers defensively. We have improved defensively. Our bench did a good job providing us hustle plays. They did a great job. We did not score inside, which hurt us. Had we made some 3-pointers early, maybe the lid would’ve come off. It’s tough.”
The hustling effort proved the Panthers were capable of attacking Dodge City’s mix of zone defenses.
“We attacked that zone better and penetrated it with some dribbling,” Brooks said. “We wanted to make something happen late in the game. We didn’t do that the first half.”
Dodge City appeared to get two late breaks up 42-40. It appeared the basketball bounced off a Red Demon player on the inbounds play. The Red Demons appeared to get another break when 10 seconds ran off without the Red Demons reaching past half-court before a timeout was called.
Kody Crosby led the Panthers with 14 points. The Panthers made 7 of 28 3-pointers and 14 of 51 field goals for 27 percent.
Dodge City’s Hunter Heath scored 14 points and Luke Gleason added 13 points. Dodge City made 6 of 10 3-pointers.
Dodge City took charge with a 13-2 run to start the second half for a 29-16 lead. The Red Demons, who had scored 31, 31 and 32 points, played a flawless four minutes.
During that critical stretch, the Red Demons won every loose ball and forced five Panther turnovers. Luke Gleason hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Noah Sowers converted back-to-back steals for a 29-16 lead.
When the third quarter ended, Dodge City capped a 21-8 scoring edge for a 37-22 lead. The Red Demons converted all six field goals in the period.
The Red Demons led 16-14 in a first half that featured excellent defense or inaccurate shooting depending on your perspective. Dodge City’s 46 percent shooting was offset by 10 turnovers.
Great Bend managed 18 percent shooting on 4 of 22 attempts. The Panthers converted 3 of 15 field goals from 3-point range and rarely worked the basketball inside the paint. The Panthers first eight shots were 3-point attempts.
“We were OK against Garden City’s zone. We’ve got to get the zone moving and create some offensive plays.”
Great Bend (1-5, 0-1) travels to Garden City Friday to continue a two-game road trip. The Panthers beat the Buffaloes in overtime in an earlier meeting at the Hays City Shootout.
It spoiled a return to Dodge City for Great Bend coach Tim Brooks, who coached with Dodge City head coach Dennis Hamilton for 10 years.
Dodge City (1-4, 1-0) has captured eight WAC titles under head coach Dennis Hamilton. The Red Demons finished as WAC runner-up the past two seasons, one game behind the league champion.
Kody Crosby (17 ppg), Konner Ireland (9 ppg) and Brayden Smith (10 ppg) have led the Panthers’ balanced offense.
GB 5 9 8 18 – 40
DC 10 6 21 12 – 49
GB—Kody Crosby 5-13 0-2 14; Brayden Smith 2-4 2-2 6; Konner Ireland 2-7 1-2 7; Ty Esfeld 1-4 0-1 2; Koy Brack 1-10 0-0 2; Totals 14-51 5-13 40.
DC—Luke Gleason 2-4 3-6 9; Hunter Heath 4-8 5-9 14; Noah Sowers 3-3 3-4 10; Chris Baker 4-6 0-1 10; Dawson Williams 0-1 0-0 0; Joh Johnson 0-0 0-1 0; Totals 49.
3-point goals—GB 7-28 (Crosby 4-10, Ireland 2-6, Murray 1-8, Brack 0-3, Esfeld 0-1), DC 6-10 (Gleason 2-3, Baker 2-3, Heath 1-2, Sowers 1-1, Rieckenberg 0-1). Technical—Smith. Rebounds—GB 24 (Smith 6, Esfeld 6), DC 33 (Heath 12). Assists—GB 9 (Ireland 3), DC 12 (Gleason 4). TO—GB 13, DC 23. Steals—GB 10 (Brack 4), DC 8 (Gleason 4).