By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-Every year, Sunrise Christian poses a major threat to Junior-College teams.
Last year, the prep school knocked off two Jayhawk-conference programs. Garden City Head Coach Brady Trenkle was fully aware.
"Year in and year out, they're good," he said. "We knew that."
Saturday night turned out to be a good, early-season test for the veteran skipper's freshman-laden squad.
Jamir Thomas scored 15 of his team-best 17 points in the second half, Theo Holloway netted 14 including a critical free throw late, and Garden City came back to beat Sunrise Christian 79-76 at Conestoga Arena.
"This has been a very productive weekend," Trenkle said after the game. "I'm really happy with how our team fought."
The Broncbusters trailed by as many as 17 in the first half and were down by 11 at the break. That's when Thomas went to work.
The freshman connected on a layup; hit two free throws, then got one to go off the glass, pulling Garden City to within two 50-48 with 13:45 left in the second half.
"Our guys just kept fighting," Trenkle said. "This was a really talented team that we played tonight."
Thomas was far from finished, and his 3-pointer with less than 12 minutes remaining gave the Broncbusters the lead 54-52. It was one of seven lead changes over the final 11:57.
"I felt coming in that we would either be 2-0 or 0-2," Trenkle said. "I didn't think we would be 1-1. These guys overcame a lot."
With the game still teetering after KJ Fitzgerald's layup gave Sunrise Christian a 61-60 edge with 9:55 remaining, Garden City got a massive answer when Holloway drilled a 3-pointer to put the Broncbusters up two. They never trailed again.
Pierre Johnson added a tip in, Jeff Otchere had a layup, Holloway drained another long ball, and Thomas connected on a 16-footer that capped a 9-2 spurt, and gave the Broncbusters a 72-65 lead with 5:31 to go.
"It's great for these guys, because they're a fun bunch," Trenkle said.
Garden City stretched that advantage to eight with 1:12 left following Elvis Harvey's layup. But Sunrise Christian refused to go away, answering with a 7-1 run to make it a three-point contest in the final seconds. Then, after Holloway split a pair of free throws for Garden City, the visitors had a chance to force overtime. But Isaiah Chandler's 3-pointer skipped off the side of the rim at the buzzer, finishing off a wild comeback.
"It doesn't get any easier," Trenkle said. "We have another one on Tuesday, and then conference starts."
Johnson netted 10 points and eight boards for Garden City, who outrebounded Sunrise Christian 27-25. They were 8-of-20 from downtown and got 24 points from the bench.
Fitzgerald scored 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting in 33 minutes for Sunrise Christian. Chandler added 17, and Coreyoun Rushin tallied 14.
Next up: Garden City vs. Kansas Wesleyan-Tuesdsay, Nov. 7 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app