El Dorado, KS-Heading into a matchup against one of the best defensive teams in the country, Charinee Mitchell implored her team to take care of the basketball. But in the end, it was more self-inflicted wounds that ended any chance of an upset.
Southern-Illinois transfer Criste’On Waters scored 15 points in 11 minutes off the bench, former Wichita-South star Kyla Callins totaled a team-high 10 rebounds, and Butler beat Garden City 68-58 Saturday afternoon at the Power Plant. It was the Grizzlies 14th straight home victory and 38th consecutive win when leading at the half.
“We just have to make shots and lessen the turnovers,” Mitchell said. “We had some really good spurts in this game, but there were too many times where it wasn’t good enough.”
The Broncbusters’ plan to attack Butler’s press proved to be effective early. Talia Roberts, who left the game in the second half after twisting her right ankle, drained a 3 from the left corner, Alyssya Boyce swished a long ball and hit a layup, and Garden City (9-7, 4-3) was up 8-4.
But that good feeling quickly dissipated.
The Grizzlies closed the first quarter on a 10-1 run, extended that spurt to 17-3 once Callins drilled a triple and held Garden City without a field goal for nearly seven minutes, building a 24-11 lead with 4:55 to play in the first half. They were up 12 at the intermission.
“At the end of the day, we can prevent a loss if we do our part,” Mitchell said. “We threw the ball away way too much.”
Seven days earlier, Mitchell’s team climbed out of a 15-point hole to down Independence in overtime. A week later, it appeared the Broncbusters were on their way to repeating history. An 8-2 third-quarter run, fueled by Kelcy McHenry, who hit back-to-back buckets before firing a 70-foot baseball pass to Roberts for a transition layup, brought Garden City to within three, 35-32 with 4:40 remaining in the period.
“You almost have to play a perfect game here,” Mitchell explained. “You have to dive on the floor for loose balls; those kind of things. We didn’t do enough of that.”
Garden City never got any closer than three. The Grizzlies answered with a 15-1 run to close the third, which coincided with a 14-0 spurt that pushed the lead to as many as 23 with 7:17 to play in the fourth.
“We will keep pushing,” Mitchell said. “I need to make sure Talia is okay. We have a quick turnaround on Monday.”
Butler won the game despite shooting just 38 percent from the floor. It was the 10th time this season that the Grizzlies shot under 40. They were 2-of-15 from 3 but hit 18-of-26 from the line.
Jaleah Bellany, who scored her team’s final 14 points, finished with 17 for Garden City. Boyce had 11 and Felicity Houston netted 10.
Next up: Garden City vs. Seward County-Monday, Jan. 14-5:45 p.m. pregame; 6 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app
El Dorado, KS-If Patrick Nee could bottle up his team’s last three second halves, Garden City would be unstoppable. Unfortunately, the first half has been the issue, and on Saturday, it once again led to their demise.
Juwan White scored 21 points in 39 minutes, Kamron Brice tied a season-high with four 3’s, and Butler held off another furious Broncbuster rally to win 82-69 at the Power Plant.
“We keep putting ourselves in bad positions in the second half,” Nee said afterwards. “If we just did what we were supposed to in the first half, we wouldn’t be in that situation.”
The Grizzlies dominated the start of the game, scoring the first five points and building an 11-point edge following Immanuel Allen’s pullup jumper. After Jamir Thomas’s rim-shaking dunk ended a four-minute dry spell for Garden City (7-9, 2-5), the Grizzlies went for the throat. Brice nailed a triple from the top of the key, Tryone Coley hit back-to-back bunnies in the lane, and Chiddy Golden canned a long ball, spearheading an 11-0 run that had Butler (11-6, 4-4) up 30-10 with 8:50 left in the half. They pushed that to 21 moments later when Daviyon Dennis splashed home a 3.
“It was hard to gain any type of rhythm in this game,” Nee said. “We had guys in foul trouble all game.”
Jamir Thomas, who eventually fouled out with eight points, played a season-low 14 minutes and was only on the floor for seven in the first half after picking up his third foul. Tony Hopkins joined him on the bench when he was whistled for his third. Those two played a combined 26 minutes.
“I felt it was hard to be aggressive with them because every time we did, there was a whistle,” Nee said.
The Broncbusters did persevere towards the end of the first half, using an 18-11 run to close to within 13, 41-28 at the break.
Taking a page out of what they did against Independence last week, the Broncbusters picked things up in the second half. Hopkins connected on consecutive layups, RJ Pair buried a 3 from the left wing, and Russhard Cruickshank, who was held without a field goal in the first half, scored four straight to make it a seven-point game. Then, after a Hopkins missed a hook, it was Cheikh Kebe crashing the offensive class and throwing down a vicious two-handed jam before Jakobi Pearson sliced through the lane for an easy layup that capped off an 11-0 surge that pulled Garden City to within three, 60-57 with 7:12 to go.
“We were right there again,” Nee said. “But again, we didn’t finish.”
With the Grizzlies staggering a bit, the Broncbusters missed a golden opportunity. Instead, Butler countered with White, who hit a back-breaking, double-clutch 3-pointer from right wing over Pearson that put the home team up nine. They eventually stretched it back to 11.
“We are going to figure this thing out,” Nee said. “I thought we took a half step back and then another one forward. We are getting better each game.”
Garden City made one final push in the final four minutes, trimming the deficit to six with 2:32 to play. But that’s as close as they got. Allen converted a three-point play, White swished two free throws and Jon’il Fugett hit an off-balance shot in the lane to put Butler back up by 13.
The Grizzlies shot 51 percent from the floor and hit eight triples, their second highest total of the season. Brice scored 18 points, and Allen chipped in 11 for the Grizzlies, who won for the third time in their last four games.
Hopkins scored 12 to pace Garden City, who dropped to 2-4 on the road this season. Pearson tallied 11, and Cruickshank finished with 10.
Next up: Garden City vs. Seward County-Monday, Jan. 14-8 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app