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Midland, TX (westernkansasnews.com)-No coach, including Garden City’s Nick Salazar is into moral victories.
But considering how much of an underdog the Broncbusters were going into Thursday’s Women’s National Tournament Invitational opener against No. 2 Trinity Valley, an 18-point loss might have caught most observers by surprise.
Freshman guard Christalah Lyons scored 11 of her 22 points in the first quarter, and the Cardinals survived a 34-point outburst from Broncbuster star Shala Dobbins en route to a 75-57 victory at the Chaparral Center.
“I’m very pleased with how hard our girls worked,” Salazar said afterwards. “But we have to continue to fight. We have to learn how to make big-time shots.”
The eight-time national champion Cardinals had beaten their first two opponents into submission, winning by an average of 72 points, including a 109-point drubbing of Southwest Texas in their season opener, which set the record for most points in a single game by a Division-I team.
So no one was surprised when Trinity Valley (3-0) jumped out to a 27-15 lead with 8:50 left in the first half. But Garden City (4-3) fought right back, and Donasja Scott’s tip back following Kavita Akula’s missed 3-pointer pulled the Broncbusters to within one 36-35 with 2:10 left in the second quarter.
“We had a lot of chances to take the lead at that point,” Salazar said. “But we couldn’t answer. That’s where we have to grow up and make those shots.”
Twice in the final two minutes, Garden City had a chance to go in front. But both Akula and Dominique Maxwell missed wide-open threes. That left the door open for the Cardinals, who scored the final four points of the half to take a 40-35 edge into the break.
That’s as close as Garden City got the rest of the way.
What ensued was a 27-12 spurt, fueled by an 8-0 run to begin the third quarter that pushed the Cardinals lead to 16 at the end of the period. That lead swelled to as many as 20 in the final two minutes.
“I will tell you right now that they are not 18-points better than us,” Salazar proclaimed. “Are they better? Absolutely. I would say they’re about 10 points better than us. We did a lot of things to hurt ourselves.”
None bigger than 28 turnovers, which was the second most committed this season by the Broncbusters.
But despite all of that, Dobbins enjoyed her finest game of the year.
The freshman from Tulsa scored at will, netting 20 of her team’s 35 points in the first half. She added 15 more over the final 20 minutes and finished 22-of-25 from the free throw line.
DaRae Lewis chipped in 14 points and eight rebounds. She was the only other Broncbuster in double figures.
Sophomore Maya Singleton, who last week inked a national letter of intent to play at St. John’s next season, scored 16 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. It was her third straight double-double and ninth of her career. Naomi Davenport and Rainey Kuykendall tallied nine points apiece.
“The question now is how we respond from this,” Salazar said. “Trust me we’re not thrilled we lost this game by 18. But we had our chances to make plays. Now we need to move forward and grow up.”
After falling down 2-0, Dobbins connected on and and-1 to give the Broncbusters their only lead of the afternoon 3-2 with 9:34 left in the first quarter. Singleton answered with her own three-point play, and the Cardinals never looked back, leading by 12 points three different times in the first half.
Tip ins: Dobbins and Lewis combined for 48 points on 13-of-21 from the field; the rest of the team was just 3-of-22…The 28 turnovers were the second highest committed by Garden City this season…The Broncbusters surrendered 21 offensive rebounds and lost the battle on the glass 39-35…Garden City shot 29 free throws (23-of-29 from the stripe)-it was the fifth time this season they’ve shot 25 or more in a game…Garden City is now 1-3 when trailing at the half
Next up: Garden City vs. Odessa/Salt Lake City loser Friday, November 20-12:45 p.m. pregame; 1 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr; mobile app: KWKR and tuneinradio app: KWKR