BY JIM MISUNAS
EMPORIA — Great Bend basketball coach Tim Brooks enjoyed part of his birthday wish by returning to the sidelines after missing the Panthers' first four games on quarantine.
However, the Emporia Spartans spoiled Brooks' birthday with a hard-fought 52-41 non-league basketball victory Friday.
Emporia's physical 6-5 Charles Snyder outworked and outfoxed the Panthers with 27 points and 13 of 16 field goal shooting. Snyder swung the momentum with six second-quarter scores as the Spartans consistently exploited the Panthers' zone defense with lob passes for easy inside scores.
The Spartans did a nice job moving Snyder in the paint and spreading their players around the perimeter. Emporia coach Beau Welch isolated Snyder, who worked low for lob passes and accurate inside bank shots.
"Coach Welch did some nice things getting him the basketball," Brooks said. "He pushed us up the lane, which you don't see. They threw easy soft passes near the rim. They killed us in the second quarter with that. They got easy scores by the basket."
The Spartans finished the half with a lob pass to Cameron Corum for a 23-21 halftime lead. Snyder averaged 22 points per game last season. The Panthers sorely missed the inside presence of 6-5 Cal Dunekack, who was sidelined with a stress fracture sustained in practice this week.
"He's such a tough matchup," Brooks said. "He's a big strong kid who's quick. He's good with the basketball in his hands."
The Panthers led 12-6 after one quarter on four 3-pointers. But the Spartans led 23-21 at halftime on 11 of 18 shooting. The Panthers countered with 6 of 13 perimeter shooting to score 18 of 21 points off 3-pointers.
"We showed fight and battle that first quarter," Brooks said.
Emporia's key after halftime was a trio of third-quarter 3-pointers, a pair by Chance Gilpin and another by Camden Kirmer for a 38-31 lead after three quarters.
Meanwhile, the Panthers lived by the 3-pointer the first half. Stefan Spray nailed four 3-pointers for 12 points. Sam Hall enjoyed a career scoring night with 14 second-half points and nine free throws. But the Panthers were unable to take advantage outside as they misfired with 2 of 9 perimeter shooting after halftime.
Hall and Spray combined to score 17 of 20 Panther points after halftime. Their teammates combined to convert 1 of 7 field goals the second half with five turnovers.
Emporia (2-2) shot a shocking 68 percent on 23 of 24 field goals behind a well-executed passing game.
Brooks was proud of the team's progress led by assistant coach Cody Carlson.
"We did a lot of good things," he said. "I'm proud of them. We've showed growth over the past three weeks."
Brooks said it was a strange circumstance leaving his team for several weeks.
"It was awful tough not being around the guys," he said. "It was strange to come back. I didn't know what to say at the beginning."
Great Bend (2-3) plays Garden City Jan. 8 to start a three-game homestand.
Great Bend 12 9 1 10 — 41
Emporia 6 17 15 14 — 52
GREAT BEND (2-3)—Sam Hall 2-4 9-12 14, Stefan Spray 4-8 0-0 12, Sage Koelsch 2-7 0-0 5, Brayton Council 1-3 0-0 3, Joseph Moeder 0-0 0-0 0, Cole Streck 2-7 0-0 6, Mathew Moeder 0-0 1-2 1, Hernandez 0-1 0-0 0, Totals 11-30 10-14 41
EMPORIA (2-2)—Charles Snyder 13-16 1-2 27, Chance Gilpin 3-7 0-0 8, Parker Leeds 3-7 2-2 8, Jacob Ortega 2-2 0-0 4, Camden Kirmer 1-1 0-0 3, Cameron Corum 1-1 0-0 2, Totals 23-34 3-4 52
3-pointers—GB 9-23 (Spray 4-6, Streck 2-7, Hall 1-1, Council 1-2, Koelsch 1-6, Hernandez 0-1), E 3-5 (Gilpin 2-4, Kirmer 0-1)