Lady Busters begin conference play with heavyweights Seward County, Hutch
By j. LEVI BURNFIN
By j. LEVI BURNFIN
If ever there was a good time to take on the two heavy favorites in the Jayhawk West division, now would be that time.
Head coach Nick Salazar believes his Garden City Community College women's basketball team is playing its best basketball of the season so far, and the 8-7 Lady Broncbusters are ready to open their conference schedule at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Perryman Athletic Complex against the 15-1 and ninth-ranked Seward County and then travel to Hutchinson to take on the undefeated (14-0) and third-ranked Lady Dragons on Wednesday.
"I don't think we could be playing at any better level, in light of the break and the end of the semester," the first-year GCCC coach said. "Obviously, we're pretty hot right now."
Hot is right.
The Lady Busters have won five straight, and are out-scoring opponents by an average of 17.6 points per game during that stretch.
The Lady Busters have found that "magic formula," according to Salazar — the right scheme, tempo and attitude that has allowed the team to peak at perhaps the perfect time.
"For us, that was on the defensive end of the floor," Salazar said. "Utilizing our full-court defense has sort of been a catalyst for gaining momentum, sustaining momentum and putting teams away."
The Lady Busters have harnessed their extraordinary athleticism to defend the entire floor, create turnovers and then force the opponent to try to defend in transition.
And that's proved to be tough to do against point guard Shauqunna Collins and company.
The 5-foot-5 sophomore is averaging 15.6 points per game, while attacking defenses with relentless drives to the rim and good vision to find open teammates.
"She's developed from the minute she arrived in August," Salazar said of the Jackson (Mich.) Community College transfer. "We knew she can get to the rim any time, but the knock on her was can she play in a system? And I think she's proven the answer is yes."
With Collins leading the way, the Lady Busters use their length and speed to run the floor, causing mismatches along the way. Sophomore Sandra Davis has been the biggest beneficiary, dropping in 11.1 points.
The 6-1 University of Houston signee is also bringing down 7.1 boards per game.
But Collins, Davis and company will be immediately challenged in Jayhawk play with the Lady Saints and Lady Dragons just around the corner.
"It's a tremendous challenge," Salazar said. "I think we open as tough as you possibly could."
No. 9 Seward County (15-1)
Salazar said the ninth-ranked Lady Saints may have the best post duo in the nation in sophomores Shanise Brooks and Korina Chapman. The 6-1 Brooks is averaging a team-high 16.3 ppg, while the 6-foot Chapman adds 12.7 ppg.
But they're far from the only scoring threats as head coach Toby Wynn's Lady Saints feature six players averaging double-digit points, including all five starters, to propel the fifth-highest scoring team in the nation at 87.3 ppg, while also holding opponents to only 40.9 ppg.
No. 3 Hutchinson (14-0)
Sophomore guard and Hutchinson native Jamie Patrick leads the Lady Blue Dragons with 18.9 ppg, while hitting on 52.6 percent of her field goals. The 5-11 Patrick creates a mismatch for opposing guards as she also hauls in 6.6 boards per game.
Patrick is aided by freshman post Kalani Purcell, who is averaging 11.9 ppg; however, head coach John Ontjes' deep bench chips in over 20 points to help the team average 82.9 points, 17th-best in the nation.
The Lady Dragons' defense is also one of the best in the nation (29th) in ppg allowed at 46.1.
The struggling Lady Trojans have lost five in a row and 13 of their last 14 after beginning the season on a positive note with a win over Tabor College JV.
Led by freshman forward Amanda Miller's 7.1 ppg, head coach Antowin Edwards' Lady Trojans are only scoring 47.6 ppg and are shooting a destitute 29 percent from the field.
The defense is not much better, allowing opponents nearly 70 ppg (66.8).
Head coach Stephanie Thompson's Lady Beavers boast one of the best players in the nation in guard Tatiana Grant. The 5-8 sophomore is scoring an amazing 25.2 ppg — fourth-highest in the nation.
Sophomores Maddie Pendry, from her guard spot, and Spearville's Elle Stein, center, chip in 10.8 and 11.6 ppg, respectively, driving the Lady Beavers to their 80.5 points average, more than 10 points higher than their defensive average of 68.2 points.
Cloud County (9-6)
The sophomore-heavy Lady Thunderbirds are led by post duo Jordyn Alexander and Courtney Fisher. The 5-11 Alexander drops in a team-high 17.1 ppg, while also averaging 7.9 rebounds per game.
The 5-10 Fisher is just behind with 15.2 ppg and 7.9 boards.
The Lady T-birds alternate between six sophomores in the starting lineup, outside of freshman guard Tai Nittler, who has started in two games this season.
With head coach Brett Erkenbrack at the helm, they are averaging 78.7 points, and are allowing 57.4.
Dodge City (13-3)
Sophomore guard Kelli Tolar provides the scoring threat from long range for the Lady Conquistadors, shooting more than eight 3-pointers a game, and hitting nearly four for a 43.1 percent average, aiding her scoring average of 21.7 points.
With each chipping in nearly 12 points, freshman guard Azaria Nave and sophomore flex guard/forward Kesha Buckner help lead head coach Mark James' Lady Conqs' 78.4 ppg offense.
The team's specialty, though, is cleaning the glass, averaging more than 50 rebounds per game, ranking them in the top 10 in the nation, and are limiting opponents to 58.3 ppg.
Barton County (12-4)
While head coach Carter Kruger's Lady Cougars possess only two double-digit scoring threats, sophomore forwards Cheyenne Hedrington and Ashton Bruner, they also have seven players that score at least 7 points per game.
The balanced scoring attack led to a 78.7 team ppg in the non-conference schedule. However, the defense has been shaky at times, allowing 65.9 ppg,