“Shooting the lights out” became a reality Tuesday night at The Garden.
After the host Garden City Buffaloes hit a scorching 73.7 percent of their shots in the first half, the lights temporarily went out at halftime, delaying the game about 20 minutes.
The darkness seemed to slow the Buffs’ torrid pace a bit in the second half, but not enough for the Eagles to catch them as Garden City won 65-43, avenging last year’s 69-35 blowout loss in Hugoton.
“Last year’s game, we weren’t ready for that,” GCHS senior Kyler Lamb said after helping the Buffs deliver some payback and improve to 12-4.
The Eagles led 19-6 after one quarter and 38-19 at half in last year's game — a far cry from the Buffs’ torrid start Tuesday as they out-scored the Eagles 25-2 in the first quarter, led by 11 points from Kyler Lamb, including the first seven of the game.
“They shot lights out, (Lamb) especially in the first half couldn’t miss,” Hugoton head coach CJ Korf said. “And I didn’t feel like we gave him open looks — we were there with a hand in the face, and he just made some shots. We weren’t ready to go, and they were.”
The Eagles (9-5) tried to make a game of it late, going on a 10-0 run early in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 48-38, but Azaver Williams hit a jumper and Carlos Acosta got a steal and breakaway layup to push the lead back to 14. Hugoton never cut it back down.
“I knew there was a chance they were going to make a run, and they did,” GCHS head coach Jacy Holloway said. “I told the guys after the game I was proud of how they kept their composure and responded.”
Especially when Hugoton started to get a little bit more physical than the rules allow, such as an intentional foul late in the game when the Eagles got frustrated and had all but lost the game.
“That’s been our problem all year,” Korf said. “I have seniors that right now just have bad attitudes. We got a really good season going, and a chance to go to state, but we can’t keep our composure. We can’t play through mental things, and it shows every close game we’re in.”
Though, Tuesday’s game was not especially close.
Lamb got things started with a quick layup, and then the Buffs got a steal and a breakaway layup for the 4-0 lead. Korf then subbed out his entire lineup, before Lamb sank a long three-pointer for the 7-0 lead.
Then, Acosta drove the lane, drew the foul and made the layup and ensuing free throw for the 10-0 lead, before Hugoton got its first and only points of the quarter on Ivan Valles’ bucket.
From there, it was a parade of Hugoton turnovers and Buffs’ layups.
“We haven’t had a quarter quite like that,” Lamb said. “We got hot quick.”
And that hot offensive start helped spark the defense.
“A lot of times, defense leads to offense, but I feel like some of the shots we hit early kind of got us going … defensively,” Holloway said. “It kind of got our energy up and got them on their heels.”
And the Eagles never recovered.
“You can’t spot a team, what were we down after the first quarter, 25-2?” Korf said. “We fought back and cut it to 10, but kind of ran out of steam.”
Lamb finished with 27 points on 10-of-11 shooting, and Acosta had 19 on 8 of 11. The Buffs, as a team, hit 65.7 percent of their shots (23 of 35).
Contact J. Levi Burnfin at email@example.com.