By Mike Pilosof
Great Bend, KS-During her high school days, Regan Unruh was known as a Garden City killer.
On Wednesday night, the sophomore proved that just because she's in college now, things haven't changed.
Unruh scored 18 points, including three 3-pointers in the final quarter as Barton County clipped Garden City 73-66 Wednesday night at the Kirkman Center.
"I thought we were extremely soft," Broncbusters Coach Nick Salazar said after the game. We knew what we had to do, and we didn't do it."
With the game tied at 48 early in the fourth, Unruh and her backcourt mate Katrina Roenfeldt went to work. The two combined to hit four straight triples to begin the frame before Bailey Robinson's midrange flip capped off a 5-0 run that gave Barton County (5-1, 2-0) a 62-58 lead with 3:30 to play.
"They had two shooters, and we failed to stop either one of them," Salazar said. "That's so disappointing."
But Unruh saved her best for last.
After Kavita Akula hit a trey to bring Garden City (3-2, 1-1) back to within one 62-61, Unruh answered with a layup and a backbreaking 3-pointer from the top of the key that put the game out of reach with 1:00 to go.
"We knew what they were going to do, and we couldn't stop it," Salazar said. "There were so many things that we did wrong in this game."
One of them being free throw shooting.
DeRae Lewis, who finished with a game-high 19 points and 12 rebounds, missed five freebies, including one in the final 40 seconds that would have capped off her three-point play and cut the Cougar lead to four. Instead she missed; Alexus Bryson Bryson hit 1-of-2 from the line before Roenfeldt and Jalisa Jones canned four straight free throws to end any Garden City comeback attempt.
"We did two things terribly tonight," Salazar said. "We turned it over 20 times and gave up 15 offensive rebounds. When you do those two things, it makes it very difficult to win a game."
For the Broncbusters, it was the second straight contest in which they gave it away 20 or more times.
"We have talented players," Salazar said. "But it's more than that. Our margin for error is razor thin. And when you make mistakes in crunch time like we did, you lose."
It was a disappointing response for Garden City following their come-from-behind win vs. Butler on Saturday. Instead, the memory of that game was replaced with another head-scratching no show from Salazar's talented bunch. Kavita Akula, who drained six treys four days earlier, was limited to just six points on 2-of-3 from downtown in 27 minutes.
"This is how it's going to be until we clean some of these things up," Salazar added.
And to think how well things started for Garden City.
The Broncbusters shot 54 percent from the field in the first quarter in building a 16-12 advantage. But the second quarter was a different story as Garden City misfired on nine of their 14 shots and trailed by two at the half.
"We played well for about 24 minutes tonight," Salazar said. "The other eight, not so much."
Tionnia McKee then fueled the Broncbusters third-quarter surge, scoring eight of her 16 points in the period. Leondra Hawkins sank two free throws, and the Broncbusters had a two-point lead with 46 seconds to play in the frame.
But Anterrika Willis answered with a layup in the final seconds of the third to tie the game at 48.
Roenfeldt finished with 17 points for Barton County, who won their third straight game and snapped a five-game, home-court losing streak to the Broncbusters. Willis added 14 and 10 rebounds.
Monica Barefield tallied nine points for the Broncbusters but missed 12 of her 16 shot attempts. Akula only took four shots while Hawkins added five points and Annie Osceola had four.
Next up: Garden City vs. Cowley-Saturday, November 19-5:45 p.m. pregame; 6 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and mobile app: KWKR