By Mike Pilosof
Arkansas City, KS-Before Saturday night's tip on the road, Charinee Mitchell repeatedly mentioned the name Brenda Silva.
"Brenda is going to be a problem," she said. "We've got a couple of things we're going to try."
Mitchell must have designed five or six different defensive sets focused squarely on Cowley's big post player. Unfortunately none of them worked.
Silva scored 10 of her game-high 18 points in the second quarter, Elina Oravakangas chipped in 15, and Cowley held off a late rally to beat Garden City 61-54 at William Scott Auditorium.
"We worked on those things the last few days and ran them very well in practice," Mitchell said. "I am not sure what happened tonight."
Once the Broncbusters dug themselves out of a six-point, first-quarter to hole to take a 16-14 lead in the early stages of the second, Silva put Cowley (11-2, 3-1) on her back. The sophomore post hit one driving layup after another, singlehandedly igniting a 13-0 surge that put the Tigers up 27-16 with 5:46 left in the half.
"She (Silva) was very good," Mitchell said. "But we knew what she was going to do."
The one play that epitomized the night came in that dazzling second period where Silva fought through a triple team before laying it in softly off the glass. She then capped her second-quarter run with a driving hook with 1:10 remaining, putting Cowley up 12, 35-23. Silva's stat line in the stanza: 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting. The Broncbusters as team tallied 12 and were 5-of-19.
"Last year, I had two or three players that were leaders," Mitchell said. "I haven't found that yet this season. That's the biggest difference."
Silva's onslaught continued in the third period. Back-to-back layups put Cowley up 14. Then Oravakangas scored seven straight, including a 3-pointer from the wing that gave the home team a 52-31 advantage with 3:02 remaining in the frame.
"We fought, I give our team that," Mitchell said. "This is a tough place to play, and we gave ourselves a chance."
Down 17 going into the fourth, the Broncbusters finally woke up. Dashane Pajeaud collected an offensive rebound and stick back, Alyssa Boyce hit her lone 3 of the night, and Pajeaud added a layup, fueling a 9-0 run that trimmed the Tigers' lead to 55-47 with 4:46 to play. Jaleah Bellany added two free throws and then drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner that had Garden City within five with less than a minute on the clock.
"We just didn't execute when we needed to," Mitchell explained.
The Broncbusters had a chance to make it a one-possession game once Kelcy McHenry stole Cowley's inbounds pass with 25 seconds. But on the other end, Boyce's driving layup was blocked by Silva. Oravakangas hit two free throws, and the Tigers put the game on ice.
"We just need to find that vocal leader that we had as a team last year," Mitchell said. "Right now, that's what's missing."
On a night where they needed their leading scorer, Talia Roberts struggled mightily. The sophomore guard scored a season-low four points on 1-of-11 shooting. As a team, the Broncbusters finished 20-of-65 (31 percent) and were 6-of-23 from 3. They also equaled a season-high with 23 turnovers.
Kedranea Addison scored 14 points for Cowley, who won for the 12th time in the last 15 meetings vs. Garden City.
Next up: Garden City at Coffeyville-Wednesday, Dec. 12-5:15 p.m. pregame; 5:30 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR Mobile app