By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-Since the start of the second semester, and with the exception of No. 2 Hutchinson, there has been no team hotter than Coffeyville.
And although they stumbled a bit down the stretch, the Red Ravens did not deviate from the narrative that has been the Jayhawk Conference in 2017: top-heavy for sure.
Desiree Nelson scored 12 of her team-best 17 points in the first quarter, Lucy Burke added 10, and Coffeyville held off a furious rally by Garden City to beat the Broncbusters 69-61 Saturday night at the Perryman Athletic Complex.
"I thought our effort was outstanding," Broncbusters Coach Nick Salazar said. "Our players said in shoot around this morning that they were going to win. I can't fault their effort."
Garden City did not win the game, but they had Coffeyville (19-7, 18-5) fans a little nervous down the stretch.
Alex Arline's 3-pointer with 35 seconds to play in the third gave the Red Ravens a 60-40 advantage. And it appeared, that Coffeyville was well on their way to their 14th win in their last 16 games.
"Our girls never quit," Salazar said. "I thought he (Stephen Harrel) put his second team in a little too quickly."
Jesse Carrillo pushed the Broncbusters back into it, scoring seven of Garden City's first 12 points of the fourth quarter. Then Lewis's layup on a second chance opportunity cut it to single digits, finishing off a 9-0 run that sliced Coffeyville's once 20-point advantage down to nine 63-54 with 3:00 left.
After the Red Ravens pushed the lead back to 11, Lewis and Monica Barefield cashed in on four free throws to bring it back to nine. With 27 seconds to play, Barefield nailed a 3-pointer that made it a six-point contest.
"We just ran out of time," said Salazar, whose team forced five Coffeyville turnovers in the fourth and held them to just 2-of-16 shooting (13 percent).
Patriece Dodson and Burke restored order by sinking freebies in the final seconds to finally put Garden City (8-19, 6-17) away.
"The bottom line is this: we lost the game," Salazar said. "So can we build momentum off it? I think we've been trying to do that for months now."
The fourth quarter was a feel-good story for the Broncbusters, who have been stuck in a funk for the better part of three months now.
"I thought DeRae Lewis had one of her best games," Salazar said. "When she is locked in, there aren't very many players that can stop her."
Lewis notched her eighth double-double of the season, scoring 15 points and pulling down 10 boards before fouling out in the final two minutes. It was the ninth time this season that she was disqualified.
Barefield added 14 but had another off shooting night 3-of-14. Carrillo tallied 13 points, her eighth double-figure scoring game of the year.
The Red Ravens drilled nine 3's, six of those coming in the first 15 minutes of the game. But one of the best free throw shooting teams in the conference was just 16-of-26 from the stripe.
"I know it sounds crazy, but there is still a chance for us to get to Wichita," Salazar said. "We've been there every year that I've been here. It's kind of the standard now."
Credit Salazar's bunch early as they withstood a 3-point barrage by Nelson, who canned four treys in the first quarter, helping the Red Ravens build a 29-18 lead. Nelson drilled her fifth triple of the first half midway through the second, and Coffeyville had a 15-point edge going into the locker room.
Next up: Garden City vs. Neosho-Wednesday, Feb. 22-5:45 p.m. pregame; 6 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app