Busters win critical road game over Beavers, 62-61
By J. LEVI BURNFIN
By J. LEVI BURNFIN
PRATT — Garden City Community College Broncbusters head coach Brady Trenkle was candid after Saturday night's 56-51 loss at home to Cloud County — something had to change.
The Busters had lost two in a row and were staring at sixth place in the Jayhawk Conference West and a highly difficult first-round game at the East's third-place team in the regional tournament.
So in response, Trenkle put D'Shon Taylor, Miles Banks and John Bell in the starting lineup, the first time in the conference schedule any of the three started a game. The swap worked as those three, plus usual starters Jalen Variste and Jeremy Wilson, prompted a 21-3 run for the Busters to open the game en route to a 39-25 halftime lead.
Yet, the Busters still had to survive a late surge from the Beavers and a 3-point attempt from Robert Davis at the buzzer that would have given the Beavers the win. Instead, the shot hit both sides of the rim and bounced harmlessly away, allowing the Busters to escape with a 62-61 win, their 20th of the season as they are now 20-8 and 6-6 in the West.
"I was just happy getting out with a win," Trenkle said after the game. "We needed a close win. Every time we've lost has been close."
At 6-6 in the West, the Busters are now only a game behind third-place Barton (7-5), which lost to Seward County 67-58 on Wednesday, and Pratt. However, Cloud County (6-6), which beat Hutchinson 94-85, still holds the advantage over the Busters by virtue of beating Garden City twice.
So with two games to play, there are four teams at 7-5 or 6-6 in the West, including the Busters, who host Dodge City on Saturday and then travel to Barton on Wednesday. But Trenkle said he's not thinking about possible scenarios, yet.
"We've just got to worry about ourselves," he said. "Dodge got a good win on the road (Wednesday) at Colby. We've just got to take it one at a time."
The Busters jumped out to the big lead behind Variste, who scored six of the Busters' first 11 points, including a 3-pointer from the left wing.
June Johnson's driving layup with 10 minutes left in the half put the Busters up 21-5. From there, the Beavers outscored the Busters 56-41 in the final 30 minutes, but Trenkle's squad held on just long enough to get the win, despite the Beavers having every chance to steal the victory.
The Beavers cut the Busters lead to 57-54 with three minutes left, but Reuben King, a regular starter who began on the bench due to the lineup switch, hit a big trey from the left wing to put the Busters up 60-54.
The Beavers' 6-foot-10 center Kevin Allen answered back, as he had done all night, finishing with a game-high 19 points. Allen hit a left-handed hook over Talan Whitaker to cut it to 60-57, then drained two free throws to make it 60-59.
King again scored a big bucket on a put-back with 1:30 left, giving the Busters the 62-59 lead.
The Beavers' DeShun Roberts made it 62-60 on a free throw with 29 seconds left.
But the Beavers pressed on the Busters inbound pass to Variste. The 5-10 point guard dribbled to the right sideline in the backcourt and the Beavers trapped. Variste tried to pass inside but it was stolen and taken the other way by the Beavers' Thomas Tshikaya. Going up to tie it at 62 with 19 seconds left, the Busters Tidell Pierre hit Tshikaya in the legs for a flagrant foul.
"(Pierre) told me, 'I wasn't giving him a layup,' which I can really respect," Trenkle said after Pierre's foul "I just told him, 'next time go for the arms.' You go for the arms, it's not intentional, because it looks like you're going for the ball. You hit the hips, it's intentional."
With the flagrant foul, Tshikaya went to the line for two and the Beavers would have the ball with the chance to take the lead.
The Busters benefitted from an opponent's poor free-throw shooting this time around when Tshikaya missed both.
On the ensuing Beavers' possession, Allen was fouled and went to the line with the same chance to tie. He hit the first and air-balled the second, maintaining the Busters' slim 62-61 lead.
On the inbound, King was fouled for the Busters, sending him to the line for a 1-and-1, but he missed the front end and the Beavers' charged to the other end of the floor.
Davis got the pass at the 3-point line, faked a Buster defender, stepped to the right and had a wide-open look with time ticking down. He let go and the ball sailed through the air with the Busters' hopes of a home playoff game tied to it.
"Dear God, don't let this go in, please," Trenkle said he was thinking as Roberts' shot went up. "Just because of how hard our guys have fought. They didn't deserve to lose like that."
Trenkle's prayer was answered.
"It's a good sweep," Trenkle said of the Busters' second win over the Beavers after also winning 83-71 in Garden City on Jan. 22. "This is a good team we swept."
The Busters had three players in double figures, led by King's 13. Variste and Taylor had 10 each. Taylor also led the Busters with six rebounds even though the Busters lost the battle of the glass 41-33.
The Beavers also had Taylor Schieber (12), Kaion Seales (11) and Roberts (10) in double figures. Allen had a game-high eight boards.
The Busters return home for the 7:30 p.m. matchup Saturday with Dodge City, while the Beavers host Colby on Saturday.
GCCC (20-8, 6-6)--Bell 2-7 0-0 5, Variste 4-8 1-2 10, Wilson 2-7 0-1 4, Taylor 3-6 2-3 10, Banks 0-2 0-0 0, King 5-7 0-1 13, Oyugi 1-1 0-0 3, Johnson 1-3 0-0 2, Craig 0-1 0-0 0, Cathey 2-7 1-2 6, Whitaker 1-3 1-2 3, Pierre 2-3 0-0 6. Totals 23-55 5-10 62.
Pratt (17-11, 7-5)--Flynn 0-1 0-2 0, Allen 4-9 11-16 19, Davis 3-8 0-1 7, Roberts 2-12 6-10 10, Tshikaya 1-5 0-2 2, Seales 4-6 2-2 11, Schieber 4-7 2-3 12. Totals 18-48 21-36 61.
Halftime--GCCC 39-25. 3-point goals--GCCC 11-19 (Bell 1-1, King 3-5, Variste 1-1, Oyugi 1-1, Wilson 0-1, Johnson 0-2, Taylor 2-2, Cathey 1-3, Pierre 2-3), Pratt 4-12 (Davis 1-4, Seales 1-2, Roberts 0-1, Schieber 2-4, Tshikaya 0-1). Rebounds--GCCC 33 (Taylor 6), Pratt 41 (Allen 8). Assists--GCCC 9 (Variste, Banks 2), Pratt 8 (Flynn 5). Turnovers--GCCC 10 (Oyugi, Whitaker 4), Pratt 11 (Flynn 3). Technical fouls--none. Fouled out--GCCC (Whitaker, Wilson), Pratt (none). Total Fouls--Garden City 27, Pratt 16.