By Mike Pilosof
El Dorado, KS-No matter how hard Garden City worked to crawl back into Wednesday night's game, it was all washed away by one irrefutable fact: if you can't make free throws, you won't win at any level.
The Broncbusters can fully attest to that.
Lajuan Hardy and Johnathan Lindsey combined to score 62 points, and Garden City missed a season-high 20 free throws as Butler enacted some revenge on the brown and gold with a 104-92 victory at the Power Plant.
"I don't understand it," Garden City Coach Brady Trenkle said. "We got the calls tonight, but we just didn't make the free throws. It's incredible. I'll tell you this: we won't win any games shooting like that."
It was the 11th time this season that the Broncbusters missed 10 or more freebies in a game. The Grizzlies took full advantage.
After Garden City (12-6, 8-6) raced out to a 13-6 lead thanks to Josh Fleming's early brilliance, the Grizzlies caught fire; more specifically Lindsey did.
The freshman, who was a two-time dunk champion in high school, sent a message with two powerful slams in the first half, scoring 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting. His 3-pointer with 12 minutes to go in the opening frame sparked a 7-0 run and gave Butler (11-5, 8-5) a 25-18 advantage. His 3-point play dunk stretched the lead to 10.
"Lindsey has really turned it on since Christmas," Trenkle said. "He is so freakishly athletic; we couldn't stop him."
Lindsay's first-half brilliance was a bit overshadowed by his teammate Lajuan Hardy, who also scored 17 of his 33 over the first 20 minutes, including three triples; the last of those giving the Grizzlies their largest cushion of the night 47-27 with 6:09 to go in the period.
"Our defense wasn't very good in that first half," Trenkle admitted. "But give them credit because they hit shots."
Despite Butler's hot shooting, a 12-3 Garden City run pulled them to within 11 with 2:00 to left in half. But Will Adler hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Karlon McSpadden added a flip shot in the lane to make it a 17-point contest. Butler led by 15 at the break.
"You have to make free throws on the road," Trenkle said. "You will never win if you don't. But I also need to get more production from guys that I'm not getting production from. That's frustrating."
The Broncbusters made things interesting in the second half. A quick 8-0 run punctuated by Naradain James emphatic slam over Lindsey, cut the Grizzlies lead to 10. But Lindsay answered with an elbow jumper followed by another Hardy trey, and Butler's lead swelled back to 19.
"We had so many mental mistakes in this game," Trenkle said. "Every time we cut into their lead, we made a mistake. That can't happen."
Over the next seven minutes, Garden City had their best chance to steal the game. They held Butler to just one field during that stretch, and Josh Fleming nearly brought them home. The sophomore guard buried back-to-back triples to make it a seven-point game. Then after a Fleming missed layup, it was Victor Dukes, who recorded his ninth double-double of the season, there for the tap back, pulling Garden City to within five 81-76 with 7:37 remaining.
"At that point we have to hit a shot," Trenkle said. "We have to get a rebound, and we can't turn it over. We couldn't finish."
With a chance to make it a one-possession game, Jamar Gilbert misfired on a 3-pointer from the left corner. Then, following a missed free throw by Hardy, the Broncbusters allowed Lindsey to grab the offensive rebound and put it back home. That pushed the lead to nine. Hardy then buried Garden City's comeback attempt with a coldblooded triple with five minutes to go, as the Grizzlies closed the game on a 23-16 run.
Lindsay recorded his fourth double-double of the season with 10 rebounds for Butler, who won their fourth straight game. Ketarrious Bouchum added 11 points and eight boards.
Dukes led the Broncbusters with 29 points and 13 rebounds but missed seven free throws. Fleming added 18 points on 5-of-13 shooting. Ben Howze had 14 and James splashed home 10.
"We still have time to figure this thing out," Trenkle said. "But it's very easy to go from 8-6 to 8-8 with the stretch of games that we have coming up."
Notes: Butler cooled off considerably from the field in the second half…they were just 2-of-10 from 3 after connecting on 7-of-15 in the first half
Next up: Garden City vs. Barton County-Sunday, January 22-7 p.m. on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app