GARDEN CITY — OK, so the Great Bend High School Panthers’ basketball team hadn’t played a game since taking on Class 6A Manhattan on the road back on Dec. 8.
The long layoff certainly didn’t help Great Bend’s shooting rhythm during their Western Athletic Conference opener with 6A Garden City on Friday night at The “New” Garden.
The Buffaloes, who hadn’t played in 17 days themselves, capitalized on cold-shooting GBHS, holding it to only three points in the third quarter and then holding on down the stretch for a low-scoring 41-32 win.
“We were in it the whole way,” said Great Bend head coach Chris Battin, whose team dropped to 1-5 overall, including 0-1 in conference play. “But when you shoot 15 percent from the field in the second half and (around) 24 percent for the whole game, it tough to win.
“Shots weren’t falling. We’ve to find ways to score the basketball. That’s the bottom line.”
Senior power forward Ethan Henderson led the Panthers with 11 points and hauled down 10 rebounds for a double-double.
“He gets in there and mixes it up,” Battin said of Henderson, who stands at 6 feet. “He plays hard and he’s not a true post man. He’s undersized and gets in there and battles and plays hard.
“I love his effort. He does a lot of good things. We’ve got a lot of bright spots, but we’ve got to correct some of those mental mistakes and shoot the ball.”
Other than Henderson and senior guard Gabe Joiner, who knocked a trio of 3-pointers and finished with nine points, the Panthers didn’t have anyone step up on the offensive end on this night.
Trailing 6-2 in a slowdown first quarter, Joiner came off the bench and launched in a 3-pointer off the window from the right wing with 58 seconds left in the period, pulling the Panthers within 6-5 at the end of the period.
Joiner also hit another trey during the opening minute of the second quarter and added his third with 2:58 left before halftime, giving the Panthers a 13-12 lead. Henderson then scored off a spin move to make it 15-12, and teammate Nick Warren had a bucket in the paint for a 17-14 edge.
But the Buffs scored the final five points of the half, capped by Hunter Delgado’s 3 with 0:03 showing on the game clock, giving Garden a 19-17 lead at intermission.
“We’re kind of similar,” Garden City head coach Jacy Holloway said of the Panthers and his own team. “They’re a defensive-minded team, and we become a defensive-minded team, not necessarily because I want it, but that’s what we do good, so we kind of stick with it and try to do things on the defensive end to make up for our lack of offense.”
The deliberate offensive ways of the Panthers, where they patiently worked the ball around the perimeter, had Garden discombobulated at times, especially in the first half.
“That’s what he’s done since I’ve taken over (at Garden City) and he’s taken over (at Great Bend),” Holloway said of Battin’s schemes. “They run a lot of offense and they wait for you to slip up defensively and they take advantage of it. They try to catch us sleeping a little bit.”
“I just think they did a good job of wearing us out.”
Trouble was, the Panthers didn’t have any energy on the offensive end. Even though Henderson and Joiner had their moments, the rest of the team didn’t feed off of it. At least that’s the way Battin saw it.
“That was one of our keys to the game,” he said. “When good things happen, everybody’s got to get excited and everybody’s got to get into it.
“I don’t know that we totally bought into that. Usually, when you hit a couple big ones like that, everybody starts feeling it and that just wasn’t the case.”
Garden City was able to create some separation at the outset of the second half, capitalizing on a 6½-minute drought by GBHS and going on a 7-0 run to assume a 28-21 lead after three quarters.
But the Panthers kept hanging around. Bryce Beck hit a 3-ball, Josh Lutz scored on a power move and Henderson, who made 7 of 10 free throws in the game, sank a pair of foul shots with 4:20 remaining, chiseling the deficit to 32-28.
Garden didn’t let the Panthers get any closer, holding them to only four points down the stretch.
Great Bend finished 9 for 32 from the floor for 28 percent. It made only 4 of 13 3s.
Caleb Tramp scored 10 points and Delgado finished with nine points to lead the Buffs, who improved to 5-2, 1-1, having lost 50-35 to Dodge City in December in their WAC opener.
Garden post player Austin Terpstra finished with eight points and six rebounds before leaving the game in the second half with an apparent ankle injury. The Buffs outrebounded GBHS, 26-25.
Great Bend has its home opener on Tuesday night, entertaining arch-rival Hays in conference play at Panther Fieldhouse.
HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL
At Garden City
The ‘New’ Garden
Garden City 41, Great Bend 32
GREAT BEND (1-5, 0-1)
Matt Marshall 0 0-0 0, Chad Touslee 0 0-0 0, Brock Ibarra 1 0-0 2, Bryce Beck 1 1-2 4, Gabe Joiner 3 0-0 9, Ethan Henderson 2 7-10 11, Josh Lutz 1 2-2 4, Nick Warren 1 0-2 2. Totals 9 10-16 32.
GARDEN CITY (5-2, 1-1)
Hunter Delgado 3 2-2 9, Evan Riggs 0 0-0 0, Tristan Nanninga 2 3-4 7, Miguel Olivas 0 0-0 0, Bo Banner 1 1-3 3, Denton Keller 0 0-0 0, Austin Terpstra 2 4-5 8, Emilio Parr 2 0-0 4, Caleb Tramp 3 4-6 10. Totals 13 14-20 41.
GBHS 5 13 3 11 — 32
GCHS 6 13 9 13 — 41
Three-point goals — Great Bend 4 (Joiner 3, Beck); Garden City 1 (Delgado). Total fouls — Great Bend 20, Garden City 20. Fouled out — Great Bend (Touslee); Garden City (Parr).