By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-Before the season started, Patrick Nee believed he had a special group that could make some serious noise come March.
And while that may still be true, the first-year coach couldn't have envisioned what transpired on Saturday afternoon.
Darius Love scored 20 points in 37 minutes; Malik Hardmon grabbed 17 rebounds, and Allen stormed past Garden City 80-61 at Conestoga Arena.
"Allen played harder than us from the jump," Nee started. "This is the problem with our team right now: we take one step forward and then go backwards."
The whole game didn't play out that way. The Broncbusters got off to a great start, and when Russhard Cruickshank knifed his way through the paint for a layup, Garden City had a 9-3 advantage five minutes into the game. But the lead didn't stick, and the Red Devils eventually tied it at 12 following Hardmon's two free throws. That was the prelude to a tidal wave that hit a few minutes later as Allen (10-1) closed the half on a 30-16 run that turned a six-point deficit into an eight-point edge at the break.
"We have to figure this out," Nee said. "It can't be every time we don't shoot the ball well that we play like that."
Garden City shot just 32 percent in the first half and missed six of their eight 3's. It got worse after the intermission, as Nee's team was 2-of-13 from downtown over the final 20 minutes.
"We haven't shot the ball well the last few games," he said. "We have a lot of things that we need to correct."
Allen quickly stretched their lead to double digits early in the second half on Love's 3-pointer from the right wing that made it 38-27. Perry Carroll added two free throws before the sophomore guard nailed a long ball, pushing the Red Devils' advantage to 46-33 with 16:42 to play. The cushion swelled to as many as 25 halfway through the final period when Nathan Williams easily maneuvered his way to the basket for an uncontested layup.
"We got outhustled," Nee said. "How many times was there a loose ball, and a guy with a red shirt is diving on the floor after it."
Cruickshank continued his struggles from downtown, finishing the game 0-for-4. He was 3-of-11 from the field in 32 minutes and scored just eight points. It was the first time this season that the sophomore guard failed to hit a 3. Jakobi Pearson tallied 13 points off the bench for the Broncbusters, who lost for the third time in their last four games. Daishaun Woods was the only starter in double figures with 10.
Hardmon notched a double-double with 17 points and 17 rebounds for Allen, who won their seventh straight game. Trez Hankins buried four treys off the bench.
Next up: Garden City vs. Otero-Monday, Dec. 3-6:45 p.m. pregame; 7 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app