GARDEN CITY—Playing in their old high school gym for the first time since 2012, Garden City was looking for some of the old throwback magic in its final home game of the season.
After a strong start, it was Garden City holding off a late charge from Hays, 55-49 for their sixth straight win.
Garden City built a 13-point lead early in the final period, but Hays countered with a 16-9 final period to make it close, but it was the first Buffs’ home win since 2011, in the same old gym.
It also gave the Buffs the league title.
Hays had won nine straight games in this series, but the Buffs swept both games this season.
Coach Jacy Holloway said Hays played a lot of man defense (a change from the first time they met), but his team was up to challenge.
Garden City got on the scoreboard in a big way to open the game, hitting six 3-pointers as they took a 22-13 lead at the first break, with Kyler Lamb accounting for four of those.
Still, Hays was able to keep things close in the second quarter, cutting the lead to three points with four free throws and a field goal.
After Tucker Johnson hit a 3 to pull the Indians back to 26-22, Azavier Williams hit a pair of 3s around Jarrod Springston’s jumper and the Buffs were out to a 34-22 lead.
But Hays closed out the half on a 5-0 run on a Dylan Ruder putback and Jason Krannawitter trey, and the Buffs’s lead was just 34-27 at intermission.
Garden City was 13-of-17 from the field (8-of-11 from beyond the arc), while Hays was 10-of-19 (3-of-9 from three).
A Hays technical foul on the bench gave the Buffs two free throws to start the second half and they followed that with a Jackson Dirks putback to take a 38-27 lead. Garden City finished the quarter with a 46-33 lead as they held to Indians to just one field goal in the third.
As dominant as the Buffs were, however, the Indians came back in the fourth quarter, scoring six straight points to cut the lead to 48-40 with 5:04 to play.
They cut the lead to six when TJ Nunnery dished to Cade Swayne, but Williams answered with a layup to make it 50-42.
That forced Hays to foul to stop the clock, sending the Buffs to the line in the final two minutes, where they were just 3-of-8. All the Indians could muster, though, was a field goal and a pair of free throws late.
Defensively, Garden City played well despite a distinct size advantage from the Indians, and even though his team was out rebounded by two boards Holloway was pleased with how his team rebounded.
“We did a pretty good job against their size, and when you don’t have to rebound it because you’re making shots (the Buffs were 21-of-36), that’s a good thing,” he said.
Fortunately for Garden City, the Buffs didn’t send the Indians to the line very often because Hays was a perfect 11-of-11 from the stripe.
“With size disadvantage, you don’t want to get beat on the glass and you don’t want to put them on the line too much,” Holloway said. “We did a pretty good job with that tonight.”
Garden City (15-4, 6-1) will finish the regular season at Liberal on Tuesday.
Hays (9-9, 4-3) will travel to Dodge City on Tuesday and host Abilene on Friday.
Hays coach Rick Keltner was proud of his team staying with the Buffs, despite the Buffs’ quick start.
“We played so poorly at Hays when we played them last time, and I thought our guys played them better tonight,” he said. “We’ve got three seniors to (their 10), but I think we played hard and we had our chances.”
Garden City’s quick start was tough to counter, Keltner said.
“When they hit that barrage in the first quarter (8-of-9 from the floor, 6-of-7 from behind the arc), our guys didn’t panic and they kept at it,” he said. “We showed some character; every great story starts with adversity, and we got some of that tonight.”
Tradgon McCrae led the Indians with 14 points and Swayne added 12.
Hays committed just 11 turnovers, a huge improvement for his team, Keltner said.
Garden City 55, Hays 49
Hays (9-9, 4-3)—Adams 1 2-2 4, Nunnery 2 1-1 5, Krannawitter 1 0-0 3, McCrae 3 6-6 14, Johnson 1 0-0 3, Ruder 2 0-0 4, Swayne 5 2-2 12, Schwarz 2 0-0 4. Totals 17-47 11-11 49.
Garden City (15-4, 6-1)—Acosta 3 4-5 11, Springston 5 0-4 11, Lamb 8 0-1 20, Williams 3 1-2 9, Dirks 2 0-0 4. Totals 21-36 5-12 55.
3-pt. goals: Hays 3-18 (McCrae, Krannawitter, Johnson), Garden City 8-15 (Acosta, Springston, Lamb 4, Williams 2). Rebounds: Hays 20 (McCrae 4, Ruder 4), Garden City 17 (Springston 6). Fouls: Hays 14, Garden City 13. Fouled out: none. Technical fouls: Hays bench. Turnovers: Hays 11, Garden City 8.