By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-Most coaches will tell you, it's better to be playing your best basketball in February and March.
After seeing plenty of ups and downs in November, December and January, the Broncbuster women are rolling towards the postseason. And with each passing game, Garden City is gaining more and more confidence, which is not good news for the rest of the conference.
Jada Washington scored 15 points, Dejanie Graves added 14 in a breakout performance off the bench, and Garden City squashed Dodge City 69-47 Saturday afternoon at Conestoga Arena. With the victory, the Broncbusters improved to 9-3 in their last 12 games.
"I didn't say much to the team in the locker room," Head Coach Charinee Mitchell said. "Truth be told, it wasn't pretty today. We won, but we have to be better."
Garden City (14-9, 11-8) trailed for all of 44 seconds, yet Dodge City made the game a lot closer than Mitchell would have liked. After building a nine-point lead late in the first quarter, the Conquistadors closed the period by scoring the final four points. In the early moments of the second, Alec Fitts hit a layup that cut the lead down to three.
"We just weren't as dialed in as we were the last game," Mitchell said. "That's human nature. It wasn't perfect, but at this point, you will take wins, no matter how they look."
Garden City answered the Conquistadors with a run of their own. Graves converted a sensational reverse layup, Talia Roberts turned a steal into an easy bucket, and Graves followed with two freebies to stretch the lead to nine, 23-14 with 7:32 to play in the half.
"It's back to work for the next game," Mitchell said. "We know what's on the horizon, and we have to be ready."
As Dodge City kept things close for most of the first half, they couldn't stop Washington, who scored four points in the final 33 seconds to give Garden City a 33-25 halftime edge. She added six more points in the third period as her team used two separate 6-0 runs to bump their lead to 17.
But as good as Washington was, this game was about Graves, who enjoyed her most efficient game of the season. She was 5-of-8 from the field and 2-of-5 from deep, including a cold-blooded 3-pointer in the waning seconds of the third period that gave the Broncbusters a 15-point cushion going into the fourth. Graves splashed home her second triple early in the final stanza and added an 18-foot jumper from the right baseline that put Garden City up 59-40 with 5:28 to play. They were up by as many as 27 in the final three minutes.
"When we recruited DJ, we recruited her as a 3-point shooter," Mitchell said. "It's almost like she's trying to prove that she can do more than just shoot. But today, she played really well."
Graves got plenty of help as Shakendra Tilley posted 10 points and seven rebounds and Roberts added 10 off the bench in her second game back from injury. Garden City hit 19-of-21 free throws, forced 18 Dodge City turnovers and outrebounded the Conquistadors 33-24.
Allie Baker was the lone Conquistador in double figures, finishing with 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting. The rest of her team combined to go 12-of-35 from the floor (34 percent) as Dodge City watched their four-game winning streak come to an end.
Next up: Garden City at Hutchinson-Wednesday, Feb. 7-5:15 p.m. pregame; 5:30 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app