By Mike Pilosof
Independence, KS-When the Broncbusters ratchet up their defense, look out. Independence can definitely attest to that.
Pierre Johnson, who was shooting south of 50 percent from the free throw line entering Saturday's game, hit 9-of-11 freebies and finished with 13 points, the defense was nearly flawless holding the Pirates to a season-low 33 percent shooting, and Garden City won their second straight 64-56 at Pirates Field House.
"This was a good road win for us," Trenkle said. "Our defense was fantastic tonight. They did the little things, and when they're engaged like that, we are tough to beat."
How good was Garden City's (7-2, 3-2) defense? Independence missed 12 of their first 13 shots and finished the half just 6-of-25 with 12 turnovers. For the game, the Broncbusters held the Pirates to their lowest offensive output of the season.
"We had a really good shoot around," Trenkle explained. "We were in Wichita, and we were practicing right next door to a wrestling tournament. And these guys were pumped up. They carried that over into the game."
The Broncbusters stormed out of the gates, hitting three treys in the first seven minutes and got a monstrous slam by Elvis Harvey on an inbounds play that gave them a 15-3 advantage.
"We started off very well," Trenkle said. "We had a lot of energy. And I'll be honest: I was worried about this one because the flu bug is going around this team."
That may have been the case, but the only ones who looked dreary early were the Pirates, and veteran Coach Tony Turner tried to stop the bleeding once Jamir Thomas hit a jumper to a cap a 10-0 run by calling a timeout.
"That's a good team," Trenkle said. "We just took them out of their game early."
Following the stoppage in play, the Pirates seemed rejuvenated, outscoring the Broncbusters 13-4 over the next 10 minutes, cutting the 12-point deficit down to three with 2:54 left in the half. However, Garden City weathered the storm with two Harvey put backs and led by six at the intermission.
"This league is a challenge every night, and our guys are starting to understand that," Trenkle said. "Tonight was a perfect example."
Garden City started the second half as they did the first with Kendale Hampton drilling a 3-pointer, Russhard Cruickshank knocked down a deep 2, and Johnson splashed home two free throws to finish off a 7-0 run that pushed the lead to 13, 35-22 five minutes into the period. Eventually that cushion swelled to as many as 15 in the final four minutes.
"I'm glad we got this one; now we've got Dodge City on Wednesday," Trenkle said. "We aren't thinking about Hutchinson next weekend. It's all about Dodge, and then we'll worry about the next game."
The Pirates did make things interesting late, scoring seven straight points to cut it to eight with 2:10 left. But Thomas halted the run with a thunderous dunk, and Johnson hit four clutch free throws down the stretch as the Broncbusters polished off their second road victory of the season.
Hampton scored 13 points for the Broncbusters on 5-of-6 shooting. He was 3-of-3 from downtown and grabbed five rebounds. Theo Holloway added 10 points, Cruickshank and Harvey added nine apiece and Thomas had eight points and six boards. Garden City outrebounded Independence 36-24.
The conference's leading scorer netted 16 for the Pirates, but was just 4-off-11 from the field. He was the lone Independence (5-3, 2-3) player in double figures.
Next up: Garden City at Dodge City-Wednesday, Dec. 29-7:30 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app