By Mike Pilosof
Listen to the complete game in our archives section
Liberal, KS-In just 10 days, the Broncbusters have scratched off two, longstanding items on their bucket list.
On Jan. 3, Brady Trenkle's team won a game at Coffeyville for the first time in more than 20 years. One week later, Garden City was at it again in Liberal, a place they had lost five straight times.
And while winning in Eastern Kansas was fantastic, this one had a little more sentimental value; especially for point guard Pierre Johnson and assistant coach Patrick Nee, both of whom spent the 2016-2017 season in Seward County green.
Johnson starred in his old house, totaling 11 points and seven assists, Jeff Otchere scored 10 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and swatted seven shots, and Garden City beat Seward County 68-60 in overtime Saturday night. It was the Broncbusters first win at the Greenhouse since Jan. 25, 2012.
"This is one of the hardest places in the country to play," Trenkle said afterwards. "The environment in here tonight was incredible."
And credit Seward County (11-6, 7-6); they did not make it easy.
Garden City (12-5, 8-5) erased an eight-point halftime deficit, taking their first lead of the second half when Theo Holloway nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing, putting the Broncbusters up 54-51 with 6:50 to go. But the euphoria was short lived. Mohamed Selmi hit two free throws and Hegel Augustin canned an open trey, putting the Saints on top 56-54 with five minutes on the clock.
"One thing about Seward County is that they play so hard," Trenkle said. "Even when you think you have a chance to pull away, they come right back at you."
This time, the Broncbusters needed a closer. Kendale Hampton calmly obliged.
The sophomore swished an open jumper; then completed a sensational 3-point play, as the Broncbusters surged in front 59-56 with 3:55 left.
"Kendale had a big first half vs. Colby and then didn't have his legs in the second half," Trenkle said. "Tonight, he made some big plays."
As the clock drifted under two minutes, Garden City ratcheted up the defense. But one simple lapse enabled Seward County to tie the game.
With 1:45 remaining, Isiah Small set a ball screen for Augustin. As the freshman guard moved left, Hampton went under the screen, creating all the separation Augustin needed to splash home the game-tying 3-pointer.
"They made shots when they had to but so did we," Trenkle said. "
The Saints were afforded a chance to win the game when Johnson turned the ball over with less than 20 seconds to play in regulation. But Ke'Sean Davis misfired on an elbow jumper just before the horn sounded, sending the game into overtime.
"Pierre came over and apologized to me," Trenkle said. "I looked him dead in the eye and said you have nothing to apologize for. That guy works his tail off."
Johnson more than atoned for his error, hitting a driving layup that gave Garden City the lead for good in the first 30 seconds of overtime. Elvis Harvey hit three free throws, and Otchere was 2-of-2 at the stripe, as the Broncbusters outscored the Saints 9-1 during the five minute period to finally put the Saints away.
"This is a big win for our confidence," Trenkle said. "It's exactly what our guys needed."
Jamir Thomas scored 14 points and blocked one shot in 27 minutes for Garden City, who leapfrogged Seward County in the conference standings. Russhard Cruickshank nailed three 3-pointers and finished with 10 points, while Harvey chipped in nine.
Davis, who missed the previous two games because of suspension, scored 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting for Seward County, but tallied just four over the final 25 minutes. Augustin netted 11.
The game started out eerily similar to Wednesday night, with Garden City yielding open jumpers and driving lanes as the Saints jumped out to an 11-4 lead five minutes in. But Thomas hit a rare 3-pointer, Cruickshank connected on three of them over a three-minute stretch and Otchere sent down a powerful slam, giving the Broncbusters an 18-15 edge with 9:48 to go until halftime.
After the Saints responded with four quick points to regain the advantage, Holloway buried a wing jumper, giving the Broncbusters their last lead of the first half. Seward County answered with an 8-0 run, building their cushion to 10 points with 30 seconds remaining in the period. They led by eight at the break and held Garden City to just one field goal over the final 7:48.
The second half was a totally different story
The Broncbuster defense was at its best, limiting Seward County to just 8-of-37 from the field (22 percent). Garden City outscored their opponent 41-25 over the final 25 minutes.
"Our guys have a lot to be proud of in this game," Trenkle said. "But now it's onto Butler. That will be another big test at home."
Next up: Garden City at Butler-Wednesday, Jan. 17-8 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkanasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app