Garden City girls claim big win at Hays High
By KLINT SPILLER
In order to be the champions, you have to beat the champions.
That's what the Garden City High School girls' basketball team did Friday.
The Buffaloes (9-1, 4-0 WAC) got a strong performance from 6-foot-2 senior center Johna McClelland, and the Buffs stampeded over the reigning league champion Indians for a 49-31 victory.
Hays High dropped to 4-5 and 1-2 in the WAC.
The Indians have see-sawed back and forth, never winning or losing two in a row yet this season. They broke that streak Friday with their second consecutive loss.
"If we figure things out, we are going to be fine," said Hays High head coach Kirk Maska. "There's still time. It's a long season. The end is what counts. Hopefully, we can figure it out by then."
McClelland, a Washburn University signee, towered above Hays High's 5-10 and 5-9 forwards, and finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and four blocks -- one of her best performances of the season.
"This is the way I should be playing every game," McClelland said. My teammates were really looking for me to get the ball, and I just did everything I could to help my team get the win."
Hays High senior forward Katelyn Schumacher led her squad in scoring with 14. She also tied with senior forward Taylor Herman for a team-high seven rebounds.
Other than Schumacher, nobody had a spectacular offensive day. Senior point guard Janae Gagnon was the only Indian to record more than one field goal, finishing 3 of 6 from the field for six points.
"I think they kind of settled in, and we never did," Maska said. "... They took it to us, drew fouls and shot free throws. We just kept kind of backing off and thinking the tall girl was going to block our shots, so we changed our shots a little bit."
Garden City never has won the WAC, and Garden City head coach David Upton said winning the league is on top of the team's list of goals.
"It's on our wall in our locker room," he said. "That was one of the first goals the kids made."
"We definitely want to win WAC and go to state," she said. "It's really important for us to stay together as a team and keep working hard every day."
Defeating the reigning champions in their home gym was a good step toward that goal.
McClelland was open partly due to Hays High's extra attention applied to Garden City's leading scorer, junior guard Taryn Tempel.
Tempel, who averages near 18 points per game, scored just 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting.
"When a team is taking away something else, you've got to find something else to keep it going," Upton said.
The Buffs traded jabs with Hays High early as the lead changed nine times in the first nine minutes.
But then McClelland posted eight points during a 10-1 Garden City run to take a 19-11 lead with two minutes remaining in the first half.
Garden City stretched its lead more and more in the second half, as the Buffs' constant full-court press unraveled Hays High's offense.
The Indians finished with 22 turnovers compared to Garden City's 12.
For Hays High, turnovers have been a problem all season, averaging 18.9 per game.
"We play faster than we are capable of playing," Maska said, "and we don't do the little things like catching and ripping through and looking down the court and going and meeting our passes and knowing who to throw to and who not to throw to."
Though Garden City dominated the game, there was one area where the Buffs struggled: rebounding.
Despite being outsized, Hays High grabbed 37 rebounds to Garden City's 21. The Indians finished with 16 offensive rebounds, but fortunately for Garden City, the Indians rarely converted their second-chance opportunities.
"I'm not real happy with that," Upton said. "I knew without looking at the stats that they out rebounded us. We've had a lot of long trips lately. ... I think we are a little bit tired, a little bit jet lagged being on the bus too much. We haven't been as aggressive as we have been."
Several players saw the floor for more varsity time than usual, such as junior Faith Desbien and sophomore forward Hannah Hearld. Freshman Audra Schmeidler was another one of them.
Schmeidler got Maska's attention after she scored 41 points in the freshman game earlier in the day, but in the varsity game, she made just 1 of 7 for two points.
"I wasn't expecting a lot tonight," Maska said. "I just wanted to get her in and get her through the jitters and see the different pace of the game."
Garden City now has won eight in a row, and a blowout victory on the reigning champions' home court might have been one of the best victories to date.
After falling to Hays High twice last season, McClelland said getting Friday's win was big.
"They won last year," she said. "That was really hard for us to take, because we had a great team last year as well."