By Mike Pilosof
La Junta, CO-Throw all the numbers out; the last three games by Garden City combined may have been their best collective effort of the season. Unfortunately now they go on a two-week hiatus.
"That's what's disappointing," Head Coach Charinee Mitchell said. "We've been progressing the last few games step by step, and now we have a break. I just hope we don't have to start over."
The Broncbusters enjoyed their best defensive game of the season, holding the Rattlers to just 22 percent from the floor on 12-of-54 while forcing 23 turnovers.
"Defensively, we had a lot of energy tonight," Mitchell explained. "When we play with energy like that, we can be pretty good. But it has to be consistent."
That defense was on full display in the first period. After the Rattlers jumped out to a 5-0 lead, Garden City (7-6, 4-5) held them scoreless the next 8:25 while reeling off nine straight points to take a two-point lead into the second.
"Our pressure in the half court caused them problems," Mitchell said. "But that all goes back to the energy level."
The offense did their part in the second.
The Broncbusters shot a tick under 50 percent for the period (6-of-13) as Roberts scored nine of her 12 points in the frame, including a three-point play with 2:43 to go in the half that put Garden City up 24-11. They did all of that while holding Otero (6-7, 1-1) without a field goal over the final 7:07. The Rattlers were just 1-of-10 shooting in the quarter.
"I think Otero was a little tired coming into this one," Mitchell said. "They just played the other night. But I thought we did a good job of getting into our offense."
The numbers definitely reflect that as the Broncbusters tied a season high with 14 assists. And nothing epitomized Garden City's unselfishness than a play late in the third quarter. Roberts used a crossover dribble at the top of the key, then veered around a screen from Kala Jones. Instead of forcing the issue, Roberts drew back, and allowed Jones to roll all the way to the rim, before hitting the post in stride for the easiest layup of the night, and a 43-24 lead.
"We're so thankful she's (Roberts) only a freshman," Mitchell said. "We get to get her back. But she played well tonight, and she played with confidence."
Garden City built their advantage to as many as 29 points following Johnson's baseline jumper with 41 seconds remaining in the fourth. Kelsey Parr even got into the act, nailing two 3-pointers in the final 2:55.
"Overall, there's a lot to cleanup, but this is a nice road win," Mitchell said. "Now we just need to keep building. During the break, each girl has a workout schedule because when they get back, they will be running."
Roberts tied a season high with five assists for Garden City, who earned their first win in La Junta in more than a decade. Daz'Monique Johnson added eight points and four rebounds while Jada Washington had seven and three assists.
Kalani Poloa, who was still recovering from a knee injury, scored seven points for the Rattlers, who lost for the sixth time in their last eight games.
Next up: Garden City at Coffeyville-Wednesday, Jan. 3-5:15 p.m. pregame; 5:30 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app