February 4, 2023

Broncbuster women score upset; men falter down the stretch

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El Dorado, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-Call it a premonition; call it gut instinct, but Garden City Coach Nick Salazar saw this one play out well before the Broncbusters ever arrived at the Power Plant.

“We have something that we haven’t had the last couple of years,” he said before game time. “We have shooters to combat their man-to-man defense. Jenna Classen and Kavita Akula will have big games if we run things right.”

Salazar won’t be trading in his day job for a spot on the physic hotline, but his assessment was dead on. Maybe he can read palms on the Santa Monica Pier.

Classen scored a season-high 16 points, Akula added 15, and Garden City won a game in El Dorado for the first time since 2011-2012 with a 67-63 upset victory of No. 15 Butler on Wednesday night.   

“This was a phenomenal effort by this team,” Salazar said with a big smile. “To win the way we did; taking a big lead then falling down, says a lot about this team.”

And to think it almost came crashing down when Garden City (7-5) watched their 12-point second-half lead completely erode. The Grizzlies used an 11-0 run in the final period, sparked by University of Denver transfer Tamara Lee’s three 3-pointers in the span of three minutes that gave Butler (10-2) their first lead of the night 59-56 with 3:17 to go.  

“I’m so proud of the way we fought back,” Salazar said. “It would have been very easy to fold the tent, and we didn’t.”

Instead the Broncbusters fought right back, and DaRae Lewis’s back-to-back buckets gave Garden City the lead for good 60-59 with 1:39 remaining. The freshman finished the night with a season-best 15 points and recorded her second double-double with 10 boards.

The run continued with Shala Dobbins and Akula sinking free throws to push the lead to five in the final half minute.

“This was a complete-team effort,” Salazar explained. “To have four girls in double figures was exactly what we needed. I can’t put this one into words. I’m so proud of them.”

And it all came down to a philosophical change on offense that fueled Garden City’s best start of the season.

“We’ve been talking about implementing the Princeton,” Salazar said. “We ran it against Butler last year at home and, even though we lost, it worked. We tried it again, and it worked again.”

The Princeton proved prophetic, helping the Broncbusters build an early 10-point lead. Dominique Maxwell hit a cutting Donasja Scott, and Garden City had a 22-12 cushion with 5:30 to go in the first half.

And they did it with their best offensive player proving to be human as Dobbins scored less than 20 for only the third time this season; she netted 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting.

Tip ins: Garden City shot 12-of-20 in the second half (60 percent) and 50 percent for the game…It was the second time in their last four games that the Broncbusters shot 50 percent or better…Garden City assisted on 11 of their 22 made field goals-tied for the second most this season…Garden City outscored Butler in the paint 20-16…Garden City is the first team to shoot 50 percent or better against Butler (Grizzlies had held 9 of their previous 11 opponents under 30 percent)…The win snapped Butler’s 12-game home-court winning streak and is Garden City’s first victory in the series since 2013

Next up: Garden City at Independence-Saturday, December 5-3:45 p.m. pregame; 4 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr; mobile app: KWKR and tuneinradio app: KWKR



Game Highlights

Box Score

Listen to the complete game in our archives section

El Dorado, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-If there’s anything we’ve learned about Brady Trenkle’s team the last couple of seasons it’s this: nobody is blowing them out.

The problem is they still can’t figure out how to win those close games.

Caelan Neal scored 18 of his 21 points in the second half, and his team pulled down 16 offensive rebounds, including a critical one in the final seconds as Butler beat Garden City 81-75 in their conference opener at the Power Plant on Wednesday night.

“Our guys need to learn how to stick to the game plan,” Trenkle said afterwards. “We fought hard, but we just got away from what we do.”

And it wasn’t like Garden City (8-4, 0-1) didn’t have opportunities down the stretch.

In a second half that saw five lead changes and four ties, the Broncbusters had a chance to swing the momentum with less than 10 minutes to go when Neal was whistled for a technical foul. But instead of giving his team the lead, Jabar Ray split the two free throws, tying the game at 51.

“We missed some chances tonight,” Trenkle said. “That’s what’s so frustrating about the game of basketball. But we will learn from it.”

Butler (9-3), who won their ninth straight game and 26th in a row at home, quickly surged in front on the heels of a 13-5 run that gave the Grizzlies a 64-56 edge with 5:30 remaining in the second half. At one point during that stretch, Neal scored eight straight points.

The Broncbusters fought back with Ray connecting on back-to-back triples to pull them to within three with less than four minutes to go. After a Grizzlies bucket, James McNeal canned a 3-pointer to make it a two-point game. In fact, three times in the final 90 seconds, Garden City pulled to within a single basket, but they could never get a stop on the defensive end as Butler put the game away at the free throw line, and Ken Perkins put back of a Romales Walker missed charity shot was the final straw with 5 seconds left.

“If we grab the rebound there, we can come down and possibly hit a 3-poiner and it’s a one-possession game,” Trenkle said. “Instead, we didn’t, and that’s been our problem all season long.”

Josh Fleming kept the brown and gold in the game, scoring 23 points on 8-of-16 from the field. Ray added 16 points and Diontae Jones 10 and eight boards.

Derrick Byrd netted 17 points for the Grizzlies including a backbreaking 3-pointer in the final six minutes that gave Butler their largest lead of the night.

“We’ll go back to work and get this thing going,” Trenkle added. “We have 18 more of these to go.”

Garden City fell down 6-0 early before Fleming sparked a 9-0 run with a 3-pointer from the wing with 17:18 to play in the first half. The Broncbusters stretched their lead to as many as five 16-11 after Ray connected on a trey, but the Grizzlies pulled right back in it and took the lead 28-25 on Damien Akao’s long-distance shot.

Tip ins: Garden City was outrebounded for the fifth time this season (41-33)…Butler shot 15 more free throws than the Broncbusters (36-21)…Butler scored 13 points off their 16 offensive rebounds…Butler outscored Garden City in the paint 28-16…Butler has now won 43 of their last 45 games at home…Bryan Miller served as the Grizzlies interim coach after Brian Barone was suspended indefinitely following his arrest for DUI back on November 5 (Grizzlies are 9-0 under Miller)

Next up: Garden City at Independence-Saturday, December 5-6 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr; mobile app: KWKR and tuneinradio app: KWKR