In a battle of Western Athletic Conference rivals, the Dodge City Red Demons got the last laugh, as they ended the Garden City Buffaloes season with a 39-30 victory during their first round sub-state game on Thursday night.
“We struggled against their zone defense, we tried to make some adjustments at halftime and when we saw it again, I thought our kids were a little more effective,” said head coach Dennis Hamilton. “Our kids hung in there, which is the biggest thing.”
The magnitude of this southwest Kansas rivalry could be felt early on, as the WAC foes squared off for a chance to move on to the sub-state finals on Saturday night. In the first quarter, the Demons poured it on the Buffaloes in the form of Jace Larson, as the junior guard slashed his way inside the Garden City defense.
After a 3-pointer from Austin Weiser ignited the crowd, Dodge City had a comfortable 13-5 lead going into the second quarter, as their defense forced the Buffs into several unforced errors resulting in Demon points.
That eight-point lead at the end of the first quickly became a 16-5 advantage early in the second quarter, but that is when the WAC runner-ups staged their comeback. With star player Jake Curran being held relatively quiet, the Buffs turned to a combination of Austin Terpstra and Braden Taylor, as Garden pulled with six.
The Demons weren't helping their cause, as the Buff pressure forced Dodge City to attempt cross-court passes that were picked off by an opportunistic Garden defense.
However, even with a growing crowd behind them, the Buffs could not move any closer throughout the remainder of the first half, as the Demons ran into the locker room with a seven-point cushion.
This had all the feel of a heavyweight bout, as the history between the Demons and Buffs have a rich and storied tradition within the ranks of Kansas High School athletics.
With Dodge City unable to pull away, Garden City managed to pull with four with just two minutes to play in the third quarter. Both squads struggled mightily from the floor throughout the period, as Hallman and company could not get anything to fall.
A 3-pointer from Curran shrunk the lead to two, but Adley Davis responded with a bucket of his own to extend the lead. But, in perhaps the turning point of the game, Isaiah Bradshaw knocked the first of two triples, this one coming with less than two seconds to go to give the Demons a 26-19 lead going into the fourth.
The dogfight continued into the final period, as both sides refused to give ground. Curran kept the Buffs' hopes alive, nailing a trey to cut the Demon advantage. But, Dodge City had their own answer in the form of Bradshaw, who came up big in the clutch.
Page 2 of 2 - An already chippy game turned even more physical with the clock winding down, as Curran fouled out after Davis took a charge, one of the many charges taken by the Demons throughout the night, a symbol of their hard-nosed attitude.
“Our kids are competitive, the Garden kids are competitive, and in a way it's sad someone had to lose, but that's just the nature of the game,” Hamilton said. “Our kids played very hard and it was a physical game. We felt we had to match their physical play, as they probably felt they had to match ours. It wasn't a child's game tonight.”
It was a hard-fought fourth quarter, but the Demons withstood any Garden City comeback, as the Demon fans were treated to an extra sweet sub-state win over their hated rival to the west.
The Demons had a balanced scoring attack spear-headed by Bradshaw's 10, while Larson finished with eight points and seven rebounds, and Davis pitched in with seven points and six boards.
As a team, Dodge City held Curran to 1-for-7 shooting from the 3-point line, smothering the Buffs' star throughout the entire contest, with most of the work being done by Jordan Doan. The Demons forced 19 Garden City turnovers while holding them to just 32.4 percent shooting from the field.
“Jordan, I think, really flourishes on that type of assignment, he's kind of been the guy that we put on the other team's best player if they play on the perimeter,” Hamilton said. “That first half was huge, the defense that Jordan applied to Curran was a big factor in this game, also.”
Now they move on to the sub-state finals in Hutchinson where they will meet Wichita Northwest with a shot at the State tournament up for grabs. That contest will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.