When you’ve played only one game since early December, you have a big chance to come out looking rusty. For Circle, that lay off, paired with Great Bend’s hot start saw the Thunderbirds fall 61-40 on Thursday night.

“We looked a step slow all night,” Circle head coach Bo Horyna said. “Better in the second half but still have to do it for a full game.”

Circle had games against Buhler and McPherson postponed due to weather and because of that, the T-Birds have only played one game since Dec. 20, a win vs. El Dorado.

“Yeah, it was a perfect storm,” Horyna said. “Everyone likes to play offense and when the shots aren’t falling you can get a little frustrated and forget to play defense a bit.”

With the layoff and Great Bend was hot from beyond the arc to start the game, pinning Circle back early. First, it was Peyton Duvall getting buckets. Then, Alex Schremmer four threes in the first half and Circle would never recover.

In a Blink of an eye, Circle was back by 15 points after the first quarter and it was almost 20 only a couple of minutes into the half.

Circle’s Luke Beougher hit a bucket, bringing the T-Birds within 27-10 with 3:18 to go in the first half but Great Bend would keep Circle without a field goal for the remainder of the half.

Cal Dunekack hit another three and Nick Wondra would contribute as the Panthers led 36-11 at the break.

“We’re learning to become a more physical team,” Horyna said. “They were a little bit more physical than us tonight.”

The offense would finally thaw out in the third quarter. Drew Middleton, Eli Jacobson and Jake Shaults all had multiple buckets in the quarter. However, the defense remained a point of contention and Great Bend used it to their advantage.

Circle cut it to 53-36 in the fourth quarter but never could get any closer.

Drew Middleton led Circle with 11 points. Jake Shaults added in 10 and Beougher had seven to compliment Middleton’s output.

Great bend’s Schremmer had 17 points to lead the Panthers. Payton Duval added 14 points, including two threes to help.

Circle will play El Dorado at 4:30 p.m. in the consolation round of the Bluestem Classic. The T-Birds have a win over El Dorado this season.

“We played them back in December,” Horyna said. “We were lucky enough to come out with a win. Hopefully we can again tomorrow.

Great Ben moves on to play top seeded Kapaun Mt. Carmel in the semifinals of the tournament.