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Indian girls nearly take down Garden

By BRETT MARSHALL

Special to The Hays Daily News

GARDEN CITY -- The Hays High School girls' basketball team knows all about winning the Western Athletic Conference basketball championship.

After all, they did it a year ago. So when they traveled on Friday to play Garden City, they wanted to do all they could to slow down the Buffs' march to this year's WAC title.

They almost pulled it off -- almost.

Despite shooting a better percentage from the field than Garden (41.4 percent to 29.5 percent for Garden City), and despite outrebounding the host team 36-27, the Indians came up on the short end of a 47-43 score against the Lady Buffs.

As a result, Garden City clinched what is believed to be its first girls' league title in program history.

While Indian coach Kirk Maska saw his team's season record dip to 8-10 overall and 2-4 in the WAC, Garden City stayed unbeaten in the league at 7-0 and improved to 16-3 overall.

"The biggest thing were the turnovers, that's what really cost us the game," Maska said. "We let them get the momentum back in the second half and when they did, it was pretty tough for us."

After an 8-8 first-quarter battle, the Indians moved ahead 22-16 at halftime thanks in part to red-hot shooting in the second period when they were 5 of 6 from the field and 3 of 3 at the free throw line.

"I thought we did a nice job of attacking their defense in the first half," Maska said.

The Indians still appeared to be in control of the game when they opened a 29-21 lead with 2:15 left in the third quarter. But Garden finally got its own offense moving, finishing the period with a 9-2 run, including a back-breaking 3-pointer from Jacksenie Tornero from just inside the halfcourt line right before the buzzer sounded to end the stanza.

"That one was the biggest momentum switch of the game," Maska said. "That really got them going at the start of the fourth and we never really had an answer for that."

After turning the ball over eight times in the first half, the Indians struggled against Garden City's fullcourt press, committing 15 miscues in the final half to finish with 23. Garden, meanwhile, had just 13.

Garden City finally got the lead at 38-37 midway through the fourth quarter and then hung on at the end, cashing in 9-of-10 free throws down the stretch.

Free throws, or lack thereof, proved to be a big difference in the game as the Indians were only 4 of 8 at the stripe compared to 18 of 27 for Garden City.

Katelyn Schumacher, who has been the big scoring spark for the Indians all season, led the way with 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to record a double-double.

Jaymie Bernbeck topped Garden's scoring with 11 points.

The Indians travel on Tuesday to Dodge City for a 6 p.m. tipoff.