February 3, 2023

Broncbusters lose close; finish 0-3 at WNIT

Game Highlights

Box Score

Midland, TX (westernkansasnews.com)-Mesa Coach Kori Stephenson was content with letting Shala Dobbins score.

In the end, her plan worked to perfection.

Taylor Reed scored 15 of her team-high 26 points in the third quarter, and the Thunderbirds withstood Dobbins 29-point explosion as Mesa beat the Broncbusters 71-68 in the seventh-place game of the 2015 Women’s National Invitational Tournament Saturday afternoon at the Chaparral Center.  

“I though it came down to the fact that we couldn’t guard anyone,” Garden City Coach Nick Salazar said afterwards. “That’s becoming a recurring problem.”

Reed did everything she could to make Salazar’s life miserable in the third. The sophomore from Kingman, AZ., connected on 7-of-8 from the field in the period, which included a backbreaking, shot-clock beating jumper from the elbow after the Broncbusters played their best defensive sequence of the afternoon.

“We knew how good she (Reed) was and how hard she plays,” Salazar said. “She was a tough matchup for us. She attacked the basket really well. We just couldn’t find anyone that could guard her.”

Reed also got plenty of help from sophomore guard Briana Clah, who added 22 points and hit on 11-of-12 from the line.

But before Reed’s third-quarter eruption, it was Garden City (4-5) that had all the momentum. Jenna Classen’s buzzer-beating triple to end the first half gave the Broncbusters a five-point lead at intermission. But for the second straight day, the brown and gold could not create any separation.

Reed’s third-quarter antics made sure of that as Mesa (1-5) built a four-point edge late in the period. Dobbins answered with a sensational coast-to-coast and-1 layup that tied the game going into the final frame.

And even after six straight points put Garden City in front 59-57 with 6:48 to play in the game, the Thunderbirds never conceded, flipping the script by outscoring the Broncbusters 8-2 over the next four minutes.

Kavita Akula then connected on her only field goal of the afternoon: a 3-pointer from the wing that pulled Garden City to within one with less than two minutes to go. But that’s as close as Salazar’s bunch would get.

Allies Fuller and Clah put the game away at the line.

“We’ve played high-level competition the last two weeks,” Salazar said. “But we haven’t proven that we can beat them yet. What I’m trying to get the team to realize as that we know why.”

One repeated theme is the lack of help for Dobbins, who was one of only two girls in double figures. Classen was the other; she finished with 13 points but was held scoreless in the second half. Donasja Scott chipped in nine points, but DaRae Lewis, who was coming off back-to-back double-figure scoring games, tallied just four points on 2-of-7 shooting.

“I continue to tell everyone that we are not a one-trick pony,” Salazar explained. “But we have to prove it. Right now we are not doing that.”

Janessa Aukward scored nine points for the Thunderbirds. Natalie Stillwell added six points and three boards.

For the second straight day, Garden City dug themselves an hole early, falling down 7-0 three minutes into the contest. Classen finally got the Broncbusters on the board with a 3-point play with 6:48 to go in the period.

Tip ins: Garden City’s largest lead was five at the half; Thunerbirds led by as many seven…Mesa’s 0-5 start was the program’s worst in 15 years (two years ago they won the DII national championship)…The Broncbusters were outrebounded for the third straight day (32-31)…The Broncbusters have now lost four straight after a 4-1 start…Exsence Duhart made her first appearance after missing the previous weekend with a concussion…Garden City was just 5-of-16 shooting in the final quarter and a had a critical turnover down three with less than two minutes to go when Lewis’s pass for Dobbins sailed into the backcourt…It was the first time this season that Garden City lost a game in which they led at the half

Next up: Garden City vs. South Plains (Thanksgiving Classic)-Friday, November 27-5:15 p.m. pregame; 5:30 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr; mobile app: KWKR and tuneinradio app: KWKR