For three quarters of Saturday’s Buster Shootout game against visiting Lamar (Colo.), the Garden City Broncbusters women’s basketball team looked like it had a stranglehold on the Runnin’ Lopes.

As time ticked away, the Busters seemed to just strengthen their grip.

Then, all of a sudden, the Lopes wiggled away, and what was a rout turned into a brawl, with the Busters having to re-insert starters to hold on to a 58-53 win.

“We had a group in there that was rolling, but they got tired, and we couldn’t get subs in fast enough,” first-year head coach Charinee Mitchell said. “And then when we did, Lamar had already got going. And they can shoot, so it’s credit to them. They just kind of got hot, and we just had to keep our cool.”

The Busters held a 26-point lead late in the third quarter, and after holding the Lopes to just 29 points through three quarters, Lamar broke off 24 points in the final period, pulling to within five with 2:25 to go. And while the Busters did not score in the final 4:58, they were able to get three late stops to seal the win, improving their record to 2-0. Yet, as the final 10 minutes showed, there’s still plenty of flaws Mitchell can show her players — perhaps a silver lining of an early non-conference game.

“It is (a good thing),” Mitchell said, “but not for my health.”

The Busters and Lopes exchanged baskets early in the game, exchanging leads five times in the first quarter. The final lead change was thanks to a Garden City High School graduate.

Jessica Carrillo caught the basketball with her back to the basket, leaned back to create separation with the defender and dropped her right foot into the lane, spun and laid in two points. Then, after visiting Lamar took back the lead a minute later, Carrillo again got the ball with her back to the basket after a pick-and-roll. This time, she dropped her left foot back, and spun to lay in another two points to give the Busters back the lead they would not surrender.

It was a set the Busters practiced pre-game, but not during the 45-minute shoot around. It came just after that, when the Busters went back to a classroom pre-game. They ran sets in the classroom and focused on getting the ball inside to Carrillo and the other post players.

“(Mitchell) emphasized that in practice,” Carrillo said. “She told us to get it inside, and don’t wait too long.”

They didn’t, and it worked to build a big lead. Carrillo’s second drop step lay up gave the Busters a 16-15 edge to end the first quarter, and they parlayed that into a 32-20 halftime lead, holding Lamar to just five points while forcing five turnovers in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, the Busters continued to dominate the paint, scoring 18 inside points in the first half. Daz Johnson had seven points inside in the second quarter alone as the Busters opened up their lead.

And when Lamar’s defense collapsed inside, the Busters kicked it back out, with Talia Roberts sinking a three from the left wing late in the half.

In the third quarter, the Busters stretched the advantage to 26 points, before Lamar’s late rally.

Carrillo finished with a team-high 12 points, tied with Johnson. Abi Green added 11, as well as a team-high eight rebounds. Kelyn Moses led all scorers with 20 points for Lamar.

Contact J. Levi Burnfin at lburnfin@gctelegram.com.