DODGE CITY — The Dodge City Conquistadors are one of the worst shooting teams in the Jayhawk Conference. The Garden City Broncbusters are one of the best.
But it was Dodge City that pressed its style of play and pace onto the visiting Busters on Wednesday night at the Student Activities Center in Dodge City, forcing the Busters into a brawl until the closing seconds, when the Busters were able to hang on for a 66-64 win.
“Dodge played well,” GCCC head coach Brady Trenkle said of the Conqs, who were 4-1 at home coming into Wednesday. “They’re one of those teams. They’re scary and dangerous, because they’re so well-coached. He (Dodge coach Steve Tucker) had an answer for a lot of things we wanted to do. I learned a lot tonight as a coach, too.”
The Busters — seemingly slowed down by Dodge’s on-and-off zone pressure — made just 38.8 percent of their shots from the field, six-plus percentage points short of their previous worst shooting performance and nearly 13 points worse than their season average of 51.3 percent. Same story for their three-point shooting, where they went 3 of 11 (27.3 percent). They hadn’t hit less than six in any conference game prior to Wednesday, and were hitting 41 percent from deep in Jayhawk play.
But they got the win — thanks, perhaps, to the continued hot shooting of Kendale Hampton, who had a team-high 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including 2 of 4 from deep.
“It’s a positive in so many ways,” Trenkle said. “A win on the road in any way you can is a great win.”
The Busters improved to 8-2 overall and 4-2 in the conference, winning three straight, including the last two on the road. The Conqs dropped to 5-4 and 3-3.
“It was just defense,” Hampton said of the Busters’ effort. “Working on it every day in practice.”
Dodge shot just 35.3 percent (24 of 68) from the field and were 6 of 25 (25 percent) from deep, both slightly worse than the Busters, who also won the rebounding battle, 50-43.
“(Dodge) tried to use different lineups to make us match up with them, but this year I’ve decided I’m not doing that,” Trenkle said. “If we can play bigger, we’re going to play big.”
Freshman post Jamir Thomas had seven points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Theo Holloway recorded a double-double with 15 points and 10 boards, while towering center Jeff Otchere had four points and three rebounds, including the game-sealing rebound, after he missed a free throw with just two seconds remaining.
But it was Hampton’s clutch shooting that kept the sluggish Busters’ offense just in front of the feisty Conqs. A jumper with his foot just on the three-point stripe in front of the Busters’ bench gave them a six-point lead, and quieted the raucous home crowd inside of the newly built Dodge City dome.
“I sometimes wish he had a selfish bone in his body,” Trenkle said of his dead-eye shooter, who was already shooting 60 percent from the field coming into Wednesday.
He did — and his teammates did — just enough to get the win, prior to hosting defending national champion and top-ranked Hutchinson at 8 p.m. Saturday at Conestoga Arena.