By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-Back on Jan. 3, Garden City thoroughly dominated Coffeyville, beating the Red Ravens on their floor for the first time in more than 20 years.
Since that point, Coffeyville has arguably been the best team in the Jayhawk winning 11 out of their last 12 games, and they proved on Saturday, that at full strength, they will be tough to beat come March.
Marvin Johnson poured in a game-high 20 points, Keon Queen was lethal, chipping in 15 on 7-of-9 shooting, and the Red Ravens beat Garden City 74-65 at Conestoga Arena.
"Coffeyville is a really good team," Head Coach Brady Trenkle said. "We just didn't put two halves together."
Garden City (16-11, 12-11) played inspired basketball the first few minutes of the game. Elvis Harvey hit a 3, and Pierre Johnson split two free throws to give the Broncbusters a 4-0 edge. After Coffeyville (23-4, 19-4) fought back to tie it at nine, the Red Ravens seized control with a 10-0 run that was ignited by Travis Washington's straight-on 3, and punctuated by the sophomore's two freebies that put the Red Ravens up 19-9.
"Give Coffeyville a lot of credit because they hit some tough shots," Trenkle said. "I mean, Marvin Johnson hit three shots that were just unbelievable. But that's how it goes."
Coffeyville's onslaught continued, and when Joshua Hill connected from the elbow, the Red Ravens had a 33-15 lead with 5:41 to go in the half.
"We dug ourselves a pretty big hole," Trenkle said. "You can't do that against this team. But I'm proud of how my guys fought."
Garden City answered with a 9-2 run to pull to within 11. Then, after Jackson Miller's basket put Coffeyville back up by 13, Russhard Cruickshank converted a twisting layup at the buzzer that appeared to make it an 11-point game. But Jeff Otchere's hand was in the cylinder, and the officials called basket interference, sending the Broncbusters into the locker room down 40-27.
"We came out ready to play," Trenkle said. "But there was a five-minute stretch in the first half that cost us the game."
Coffeyville did not cool off to start the second. Johnson hit back-to-back jumpers from the left baseline, and Anthony Webster finished at the rim, putting the road team on top 50-30 with 17:11 left in the game.
"When they started hitting shots the way they did, our confidence started going down," Trenkle said. "They were hitting one shot after another."
Two weeks earlier, Independence erased an 18-point deficit to stun Garden City. On Saturday, the Broncbusters nearly pulled off the same feat.
Garden City held the Red Ravens to just eight points over the next 12 minutes. During the same stretch, Kendale Hampton got loose, burying three triples, including a bomb from the left wing that pulled the Broncbusters to within three, 61-58 with 4:03 remaining.
"We have to be able to match our opponent's energy," Trenkle said. "I think we did that in the second half."
The other part of that was a change in defensive philosophy. It was no coincidence that the Broncbusters surge began once they switched from a man-to-man into a 2-3 zone that had Coffeyville scrambling.
"Our zone was great in the second half," Trenkle said. "We practice it all the time, and we finally had to go to it to stop their perimeter shooting."
But once Garden City cut it to three, Coffeyville answered. Queen hit a layup and Johnson knocked down a midrange jumper, bumping the lead back to seven. After Theo Holloway trimmed it to five with a floater, Johnson buried the Broncbusters with a coldblooded trey from the right corner that put Coffeyville up eight. Hill banked home a finger roll and Anthony Jones and Johnson hit four free throws to put the game away.
"I keep telling our guys that we just need to get to Wichita," Trenkle said. "I'm always in their ear about it. I mean, it would have been nice to sweep this team, but at the end of the day, they won the game. We just have to find a way to get our confidence back. We have three games left to do that before the tournament."
Benton scored 11 points for the Red Ravens, who won their 11th straight game.
Hampton paced Garden City with 17 points on 4-of-8 from downtown. Cruickshank totaled 15, but as a team, the Broncbusters endured their second-worst shooting game of the season going 18-of-53 from the floor (34 percent).
"You're not going to win a lot of games when you go 7-of-22 from 2-point range," Trenkle said.
Next up: Garden City at Neosho-Wednesday, Feb. 21-7:30 p.m. on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app