By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-Chalk this one up to just one of those days.
And while Saturday's lopsided loss served as a reminder that anyone in the Jayhawk Conference can beat anyone, it also had everyone at Conestoga Arena in utter disbelief.
Dayton McGroarty scored a season-high 24 points while knocking down 5-of-6 3s, Jyrus Freels chipped in 12, and Dodge City routed Garden City 87-70 to split the season series.
"I'm embarrassed," Head Coach Brady Trenkle said. "I don't know where our minds are at right now. We were prepared, and I thought we had good energy. But we just were outplayed in every area."
It's a quandary that has the fifth-year coach scratching his head as Garden City dropped to 4-5 in conference home games.
"I just can't put my finger on it why we struggle at home," Trenkle said. "We have a great gym and great fans. But we struggled to get anything going."
Unfortunately for the Broncbusters, Dodge City felt right at home in Garden City's backyard.
McGroarty had his coming-out party, knocking down an early triple that gave Dodge City an 11-9 lead seven minutes into the game. Then with the score tied at 15, McGroarty struck again, nailing an off balance jumper from the free throw line that gave the Conquistadors the lead for good.
"He (McGroarty) has been playing really well the last few games," Trenkle said. "And you can just see how hard he plays, and how much confidence he has right now. I wish some of our guys would take that approach."
The scary thing was that the sophomore wing did all of his damage on the second unit, terrorizing the Broncbusters in 27 potent minutes off the bench.
"That's how you earn time," Trenkle explained. "You work on your game and work your tail off. That's what he has done. We need someone like that to step up for our team."
McGroarty's stroke was on full display halfway through the opening period, scoring five straight points, including his second 3-pointer that put Dodge City (7-16, 5-14) up 24-17 with 9:11 to play. He finished the first half with 16 points on 6-of-11 from the field, singlehandedly spearheading a 25-11 run that had the Conquistadors up 40-26 at the half.
"Dodge City has struggled this year, but they are coached so well," Trenkle said. "I told our guys that that in itself is worth 10 to 15 points."
The Conquistadors, the worst 3-point shooting team in the conference, played out of their minds over the first 20 minutes, knocking down 6-of-8 from deep.
"They shot the ball extremely well," Trenkle added. "But we've seen so many teams come in here and shoot lights out."
And while most didn't expect the Conquistadors to keep up that long-range display in the second half, they didn't need to.
Dodge City changed their philosophy over the final 20 minutes, turning their 3-point barrage into a steady diet of midrange jumpers and paint runs. Flare screens and pin downs had shooters popping free, and a 24-10 run midway through the second half put the Conquistadors up 84-57. It had some fans heading for the exits.
"We have to get right," Trenkle said. "It's frustrating to watch, but we have to find a way to be playing our best basketball come tournament time."
Kevin Howard added 11 points in 22 minutes for Dodge City, who won for just the second time in their last six games.
Jamir Thomas paced the Broncbusters with 19 points, but was just 4-of-12 from the field as Garden City lost at home to Dodge City for the second straight year. They were just 26-of-45 from the free throw line and were outrebounded 40-30.
Next up: Garden City at Hutchinson-Wednesday, Feb. 7-7:30 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app