Senior send-off with WAC win over Hays
If there was something in game-planning for the Garden City Lady Buffaloes’ basketball team for their Friday night Western Athletic Conference home game against Hays High, head coach Matt Pfeifer knew that he would have to make changes from their January victory against the Lady Indians in Hays.
The principal reason was Pfeiffer and the Buffs were without sophomore starting point guard Amaya Gallegos, and reserve Kristen Roth, out with an injury and health issues.
Somehow, the Buffs with some of the seniors stepping up, managed to do enough to post a 39-33 victory at The Garden on Senior Night and Winter Homecoming festivities.
“It took some mental toughness and resiliency to win tonight,” Pfeifer said afterward. “We were far from perfect, but made plays when it counted.”
Gallegos, one of the team’s leading scorers and the player who jump starts the Buffs’ offense as well as being a tenacious defender, went down with an injury in the second quarter of last Wednesday’s loss at Dodge City. Her return is uncertain as the Lady Buffs, now 11-4 overall and 5-2 in the WAC, complete their abbreviated regular season next Tuesday at Liberal.
“Keyhana (senior Turner) was awesome, handled the ball well and made some big plays throughout the game,” Pfeifer said of his 5-11 senior who finished with 11 points, including a 5-of-6 night at the free throw line.
The first half saw both teams struggle with their shooting and with turnovers, and at the end of each stanza, the Lady Indians held 1-point leads of 10-9 and 20-19.
That narrowest of margins held fast through much of the third quarter, but the Lady Buffs did finish out the period with a 3-point edge, 29-26. While they didn’t get a big separation in the final eight minutes, they did enough to keep the Indians at bay. Nursing a 33-31 lead late in the fourth, another senior, Symone Simmons, cashed in two free throws with 0:45 seconds remaining. Hays’ Morgan Engel countered with a pair of charities at the 0:34 mark, pulling them within two again.
With 0:23 on the clock, Turner was fouled and calmly made both freebies. Then, the big play of the closing minutes occurred when Hays turned the ball over with 0:14 left. In-bounding the ball and trying to hold the precarious lead, sophomore Aileen Becerril (game-high 14 points) was fouled and calmly swished both free throws to give the Buffs that final 6-point margin.
Pfeifer also got critical play from senior reserve Melody Flores, who scored 6 points and was 4-of-4 from the free throw line. For the game, the Lady Buffs cashed in 13-of-17 shots at the charity stripe.
“I’m thankful for the group of seniors (7) and what they’ve provided for our program,” Pfeifer said.
This group of seniors had several who had seen playing time and/or starting since their freshman season. That group includes Kiana Calahan, Julie Calzonetti, Kitsely Franco, Turner, Simmons and Flores. McKenna Jagels, one of the Buffs’ standouts on the fall volleyball team, was the other senior honored in the post-game ceremony. That group had gone through seasons with records of 6-15, 12-10, 10-11 and now the current finale in which they ended Liberal’s 61-game regular-season winning streak back in January and captured the program’s first 3-game tournament title in Colby. They have posted a combined 39-40 record in their four-year career.
It’s been a hiccup season for the winter sports teams at Garden City, forced to delay the start of their seasons by a month due to COVID-19 restrictions imposed by USD 457 in November. They missed 5 games on the schedule in December and didn’t play their first game until Jan. 8 at Great Bend.
The game Tuesday at Liberal has postseason sub-state seeding implications as the Lady Redskins are currently 14-3. Dodge City is 16-1 after a 54-26 win over Great Bend on Friday. The Lady Demons are the likely No. 1 seed and will host Hutchinson (7-9) on March 3 in one 6A sub-state semifinal contest while the Lady Buffs and Lady Redskins will battle as the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds (determined by Tuesday’s game), with the No. 2 seed hosting the semifinal test.
The sub-state final will be played on Saturday, March 6, with the winner advancing to the 6A state, which begins on March 8 with state quarterfinal games being played this year at the team that is the higher seed. State semifinals are scheduled at Koch Arena in Wichita for March 12 and the championship game set for March 13. There will be no third-place game this year in state tournaments for all classes.
HAYS HIGH (33) – Green 0 2-2 2, Johnson 2 4-4 9, Lang 3 0-4 7, Engel 2 2-2 6, Robben 3 0-0 7, Sheldon 1 0-0 2. Totals 11 8-12 33.
GARDEN CITY (39) – Calahan 1 0-0 2, Calzonetti 1 0-0 2, Becerril 5 2-3 14, Franco 0 0-2 0, Flores 1 4-4 6, Simmons 1 2-2 4, Turner 3 5-6 11. Totals 12 13-17 39.
Hays High (6-12/1-5) 10 10 6 7 — 33
Garden City (11-4/5-2) 9 10 10 10 — 39
3-point goals: Hays 3 (Johnson 1, Lang 1, Robben 1); Garden City 2 (Becerril 2). Fouls: Hays 14, Garden City –. Fouled out—None.