By Mike Pilosof
Chanute, KS-There have been two common themes for Garden City since Jan. 1: winning games; they're 11-4 since the beginning of the New Year, and the sounds of Charinee Mitchell's voice resonating throughout gyms in the Sunflower State.
"We're always coaching," Mitchell said. "It doesn't matter what the score is. We have to be able to finish games strong."
The first-year coach has definitely gotten her message across, and on Wednesday, the Broncbusters once again went for the throat.
Shakendra Tilley and Dejanie Graves each scored 14 points, Jada Washington added 13 and nine rebounds, and Garden City ransacked Neosho County 74-47 at Panthers Gymnasium. It was the Broncbusters seventh win in their last eight games.
"I'm not pleased because I felt we didn't execute towards the end," Mitchell said. "But we won, and it's onto the next one."
Mitchell's stoic nature has been the foundation of what Garden City has cultivated over the past 50 days. And Wednesday was no different.
Garden City (18-10, 15-9) raced out to a 21-10 lead after 10 minutes, and had a 34-18 advantage after Washington hit two free throws with 45 seconds to go in the second. But Mitchell wasn't happy once Calea Augistin nailed a rainbow 3-pointer from the left wing to beat the first-half buzzer, cutting the Broncbusters lead to 13 at the intermission.
"I reminded them that the first time we played Neosho, we didn't blow them out," Mitchell said. "Neosho plays hard for 40 minutes, and you can't have lulls. I felt like we had lulls in this game."
The Panthers, who had lost 12 out of 13 entering play on Wednesday, gave the Broncbusters a good punch in the firsts few minutes of the third quarter. Erica Birch hit a jump hook in the paint, and Neosho County (7-21, 4-20) was within nine. But that's as close as they got the rest of the way. Kelcy McHenry's second-chance bucket fueled a 15-4 run to end the period, and when Jessica Carrillo hit a layup in the final 20 seconds of the third, Garden City had a 54-35 edge.
"I'm glad we got the win, but there are certain things that we need to clean up," said Mitchell, whose team endured a rather adventurous 24 hours. Because of a strong storm system on the Eastern side of the state, the women's game was moved up two hours to help beat Mother Nature. But while that battle was ongoing, Garden City lost another one: their bus broke down on the way to Chanute.
"To be honest, I'm a little freaked out," Mitchell said before the game. "But that's life. Things happen, and you have to deal with them."
One of those life moments happened in the game as well when Talia Roberts, who had missed the previous two games with a concussion, landed awkwardly at the end of the third quarter and rolled her ankle.
"It's the same ankle that forced her to miss a few games a while back," Mitchell said.
Without Roberts again, Carrillo became the main bench producer, scoring 12 points in 14 minutes. The sophomore's play in the second half definitely led a resurgence as Garden City capped off back-to-back 20-point quarters, building their lead to as many as 29 late in the fourth.
"We're approaching this one game at a time," Mitchell said. "We know who is coming up, but we still have to take care of Colby before we even start thinking about Seward."
Alexis Casher was the only Panthers player in double figures with 11 points.
Next up: Garden City vs. Colby-Saturday, Feb. 24-1:45 p.m. pregame; 2 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app