BURNFIN: Buster hoops first impressions misleading after slow starts

12/17/2013

My wife hated me.

My wife hated me.

Well, not once she was my wife. At least, not all the time.

But when I first met her as a junior in high school, she thought I was arrogant and a "show-off," which may or may not have been true.

Because of that first impression, though, when we were both sophomores at the same college, it took me months to finally convince her to go on a date. I finally did, though, and I think it's all worked out from there.

But that first impression weighed heavily on her mind, even years later.

First impressions can and will shape long-term opinions and perspective.

So when the first impression of the Garden City Community College basketball teams this year, were, well, uninspiring, that perspective could have been hard to lose.

The men's team played its home opener on Nov. 8 with a rout of a clearly out-matched Kingdom Prep squad. But then, the Broncbusters lost 69-62 to the now eighth-ranked North Platte, Neb., Community College team the following night.

And the men lost again in their next game just three days later, Nov. 12, to Otero (Colo.) Junior College, 60-57, on the Busters' home floor yet again, dropping them to 3-2, with all three wins coming over prep or JV teams.

Meanwhile, the women's team fell to Howard College in its home opener on Nov. 8, dropping the Lady Busters to 0-4 to begin the young season just a year after setting a record for the most wins in program history with 29.

That is where the first impressions could have cemented: Neither team will be great, and the women's team could be mediocre at best.

But both first-year coaches, Brady Trenkle (men) and Nick Salazar (women), stayed positive, citing the work in progress as the players and coaches coalesced.

That positivity seems to have been warranted.

The men traveled to Otero just a week after the Busters' loss at home and returned the favor, beating the Rattlers on their home floor, and have not lost since, including home-and-home wins over Lamar.

The Busters, with a rotation as deep as 10 or 11 even in close games, have been led by their defense that has held opponents to just 60.7 points per game, and a miniscule 35.2 percent shooting percentage.

Meanwhile, on the offensive end of the floor, they have three players averaging double digit points per game, including Jade Cathey's team-high 13.5 as he comes off the bench.

Jeremy Wilson adds in 12 per game, and Talan Whitaker drops in 10.7.

And an early perceived weakness, outside shooting, has nearly been erased by the hot-handed June Johnson, who is hitting 44.4 percent of his 3-point attempts.

The Busters finished out their 2013 schedule with a 13-2 record, and will ride that 10-game winning streak into January's conference schedule that begins on Jan. 11 at home against Seward County. That is, after the last non-conference matchup of the season at 2 p.m. on Jan 5 against On Point Academy.

Meanwhile, the Lady Busters didn't quite go on the streak their male counterparts did, losing three in a row — at Otero, at Butler and home to New Mexico — in the middle of November, but they did rebound to win their last four with victories over Lamar at home, Neosho County in Hutchinson, and Clarendon at home, before putting the exclamation point on their turnaround with what Salazar called a "signature win" over No. 15-ranked Northeastern Oklahoma A&M on Saturday, ending the Lady Busters' 2013 schedule.

It's easy to see how the Lady Busters have developed after the first few weeks of struggles.

Sophomore point guard Shauqunna Collins has learned to play within the means and system of her team when needed, but also has hit the gas on her all-out style of play in the full court to force turnovers, and even sometimes drive the entire court for highlight-reel lay ups on fast breaks when the Lady Busters need a big play.

That breakthrough has led Collins to a team-high 15.7 ppg, and over four assists per game.

University of Houston-bound Sandra Davis provides the inside scoring threat with 10.3 ppg on almost 50 percent shooting from the field. And shooting guard Allegria Chisom chips in 10.6 ppg of her own.

Behind those three, the Lady Busters end the break with a 7-7 record, but on a four-game winning streak and with the best win of either Buster teams.

They also open 2014 with a non-conference contest to start — at home to Otero at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 7 — and will then take on Seward County at home on Jan. 11, with their game at 5:30 p.m.

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