Saints hold off Busters in final minutes, 75-69, in Jayhawk opener.
By J. LEVI BURNFIN
There's very little difference sometimes between a win and a loss in conference play.
On Saturday night, that little difference was a missed rebound that was in the hands of two different Garden City Community College men's basketball players in a 75-69 conference-opening loss to Seward County at the Perryman Athletic Complex.
Down 68-59 with only 3 1/2 minutes to play, the Broncbusters made the final of many comeback attempts on the night, scoring nine of the next 11 points to cut the deficit to two, 70-68, with less than a minute remaining.
The Busters needed a stop on the defensive end to get the ball back with a chance to tie or take the lead for the first time since 10 minutes into the second half.
They got it. A Saints' shot was off the mark and the ball bounced straight to three potential Buster rebounders. Both Talan Whitaker and Jeremy Wilson went up for the ball to try to get into transition. Instead, the duo unknowingly knocked the ball out of each other's grasp and straight into the Saints' Secean Johnson, who scored on a putback and drew a foul. After draining the ensuing free throw to finish off his 18-point night, Johnson and the Saints were all of a sudden up 73-68 when it could have easily been a tie game.
Instead, it was the backbreaker. The Saints went on to get the all-important conference-opening win to move their overall record to 11-6 and 1-0 in conference.
"To win a lot of games, you've got to have some luck go your way," Busters' head coach Brady Trenkle said after the game about the misplayed rebound. "And Seward County didn't have any luck go their way until that one possession."
That lucky break, or unlucky for Garden City, ended the Busters' 11-game winning streaking, dropping them to 14-3 and 0-1 in conference.
"It's just the luck of the draw," said sophomore guard Reuben King, the leading scorer for the Busters with 12 points. "Two guys fighting hard for a rebound, and we just happened to knock it out of each other's hands. It just happens. You can't really do anything about it."
Whitaker finished with 11 points and four boards, while teammate Jalen Variste also had 11 points, three boards and two assists. The Saints' Malcom Hill-Bey finished with a game-high 24 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including 3 for 5 from 3-point range.
While the misplayed rebound was the biggest turning point during the game, there were several other incidents that seemed to change the momentum.
With the score tied at 53 halfway through the second, the Busters' D'Shon Taylor drove the lane for a lay up attempt, but finished the play coming down hard on the floor. He immediately writhed in pain. The refs blew the whistle to stop play.
At that point, a Saints fan yelled something from behind the scorer's table. Trenkle did not appreciate it, and yelled back. The two had a quick but heated exchange.
"I'm just not going to let somebody say a word to my player," Trenkle said about the exchange after the game. "Especially when you've got a guy down on the floor rolling. To be honest, I don't know exactly what (the fan) said. I just heard something about 'faker.'
"D'Shon doesn't fake anything, and he's on crutches right now. That's really all it was. I'm going to stand up for my players because I know how hard they work for me."
Taylor did not re-enter the game, and was on crutches after the game with his ankle heavily wrapped. The prognosis was not immediately known.
In addition, just a minute earlier, the refs missed a seemingly blatant foul on a Seward shooter, whose arm was held down on a missed lay up. Seward coach Bryan Zollinger let his displeasure be known immediately, running onto the court to tell the offical, drawing a technical foul.
"I was protesting the call and ran too far out on the court," Zollinger said after the game. "I was trying to get (a technical) at that point. It was fair."
After all three incidents — the technical, the injury to Taylor and Trenkle's exchange with a fan — the Saints went on a 13-5 run to start to pull away before the Busters made the late comeback attempt.
"I think at the end of the day, losing D'Shon, the way D'Shon was playing, that really hurt us, because D'Shon was playing really well at the time," Trenkle said.
Before leaving with the injury, Taylor had seven points on 2-for-5 shooting.
Trenkle also said the reason the Busters lost is much less convoluted.
"We got out-rebounded and we didn't hit free throws. It's really simple," Trenkle explained.
The Saints had 31 boards compared to the Busters' 27 despite no real size advantage. The Saints were also 30 of 46 from the free-throw line, while the Busters only hit 27-of-43 charity attempts.
"It's the first game of the league, both teams really wanted to win, and at the end of the day, the team that played that much better wins," Trenkle continued. "And Seward played that much better than us."
The Busters will not have much time to reflect on the loss with a road game against conference foe and 13th-ranked Hutchinson at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
"We've got to get over (the Seward loss). We've got to leave it in the past and just focus on Hutch now," King said.
Seward County (11-6, 1-0)--Stevenson 4-10 0-2 8, Bridgeforth 0-2 3-4 3, Hill-Bey 7-14 7-9 24, Purtue 2-4 7-8 11, Johnson 4-11 9-13 18, Allen 0-0 0-2 0, Mays 0-1 0-0 0, Sharp 1-4 1-2 4, Johnston 1-2 0-0 2, Benjamin 1-1 2-4 4, Mentor 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-50 30-46 75.
Garden City (14-3, 0-1)--Wilson 2-4 0-0 4, Whitaker 3-5 5-10 11, King 2-7 7-10 12, Variste 4-9 3-4 11, Johnson 1-2 0-0 3, Bell 0-0 0-0 0, Oyugi 0-2 3-5 3, Taylor 2-5 3-7 7, Craig 0-0 0-0 0, Cathey 4-5 2-3 10, Pierre 1-1 4-4 6, Banks 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 20-41 27-43 69.
Halftime--Seward County 40-34. 3-point goals--SCCC 5-10 (Hill-Bey 3-5, Purtue 0-1, Johnson 1-2, Sharp 1-1, Johnson 0-1), GCCC 2-8 (Wilson 0-1, King 1-3, Variste 0-2, Johnson 1-2). Rebounds--SCCC 31 (Purtue, Johnson 5), GCCC 27 (Cathey 5). Assists--SCCC 7 (Hill-Bey, Purtue 2), GCCC 4 (Variste 2). Technical Fouls--SCCC (Coach). Fouled out--SCCC (Stevenson), GCCC (King). Total fouls--SCCC 30, GCCC 29.