When the men’s and women’s basketball teams tip-off Wednesday night in Coffeyville, it will have been 25 and 23 days, respectively, since the Broncbusters last took the court for a game.
The Busters’ teams returned to Garden City on Dec. 27 to begin practices for the upcoming final two-month marathon KJCCC season.
Wednesday’s “second half” of the season will begin with the Busters’ women taking the court first at 5:30 p.m., followed by the men at approximately 7:30 p.m.
The GCCC women enter the Jayhawk Conference road test with a 4-5 mark in the KJCCC and are 6-7 overall. The Busters’ last game, which came on Dec. 12, was a 60-33 road romp over Otero J.C., Colo.
Coach Charinee Mitchell’s team also had won their final Jayhawk Conference test on Dec. 9 with a 58-42 home win over Pratt to head into the break on an uptick.
Mitchell, who was in Wichita Tuesday night recruiting, said she was anxious to get her team back into the competitive race of the Jayhawk Conference.
“The biggest thing will be getting back into game shape from just practice shape,” Mitchell said Tuesday. “We’ve got to get our kids motor moving to play at that pace.”
Coffeyville’s women’s team brings a 6-3 conference mark and 8-5 overall record into the game. Currently, the Red Ravens are alone in sixth place while the Busters are tied for eighth with Butler.
“They’re very athletic, and they will press full-court for 40 minutes, so we’re gonna have to be aware of turnovers and taking care of the ball,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said she and her staff have not dwelt on the two wins three weeks ago, but it does have some merit.
“We haven’t even spoken about those games. We’ve been focusing on Coffeyville,” Mitchell said.
The upside thus far has been the defense of the Busters, yet they’ve also struggled offensively, Mitchell said.
“We’ve been playing good defense all season so that’s what we’ve got to do on the road,” Mitchell said. “Our offense is our biggest concern, and I would expect them to play zone because most teams don’t think we can shoot from the outside.”
The Busters will be back home for a 2 p.m. tip-off Saturday against Neosho County at Conestoga Arena.
Notes: Mitchell said sophomore guard Dejanie Graves would miss the game due to a bout with the flu. She had been out with an injury prior to the break.
Also a game-time decision will be how much Jessica Carrillo will play. She had suffered a concussion and had to go through the protocol before getting released to return.
For men’s coach Brady Trenkle, the re-start to the long season will be an opportunity to put the bad taste of a 93-92 home loss to Pratt on Dec. 9 out of their mind.
The break, Trenkle said, has been all about getting back to the basics and what the Busters need to do to win close games.
“It always depends on how you come back and approach the practices getting ready for the second half,” Trenkle said Tuesday. “I wasn’t happy with the way we ended the December schedule with the loss to Pratt, but the kids have come back rejuvenated, and they’re excited to be here and we’re ready to play.”
In their three December games before the holiday break, the Busters lost a 65-61 home game to nationally-ranked Hutchinson and then the one-point heartbreaker to Pratt. Those losses sandwiched a 77-67 road win at Cloud County.
“We’ve got to develop more consistency, and we need to be better shooting free throws,” Trenkle said of his team, who is shooting 45 percent at the stripe in its four losses and 67 percent in its nine wins. “We’d be 13-0 if we hit free throws, so if you can’t close it out at the line, you’re gonna lose some games that you should win.”
With three of their first four January games on the road, Trenkle knows how important it is to get off to a good start. But the No. 14-ranked Red Ravens will pose a tough January opener for the Busters.
“Nobody plays an easy schedule in this league,” Trenkle said. “There’s (three) teams ahead of us (2-losses each by Barton, Coffeyville and Cowley plus league leader Hutch with 1 loss). We’ve just hopped right back in it (practices) and the kids enjoy each other and they’re ready to get back onto the floor.”
With the majority of the team being freshmen, Trenkle said he has expected the Busters to be playing their best ball in late January and into February.
“Now is the time the freshmen need to become sophomores,” Trenkle said. “We’ve got them with no school (classes resume Jan. 9), so we’re going three times a day at about an hour and a half each time. We’re mixing things up with what we do in each session, so there’s a lot we can get accomplished.”
Following Wednesday’s trip to southeast Kansas, the Busters will return for a 4 p.m. matinee game Saturday at Conestoga Arena against Neosho County.
Notes: Trenkle also had high praise for his team when it came to the academic side of the players’ education.
The Busters had a cumulative 3.0 GPA for the first semester, with 11 current roster players and two red-shirts making up that group.
“It’s the highest GPA of any team I’ve coached,” said a happy Trenkle. “It shows what kind of young men we have. They’ve taken care of that side of their business and they’ve been very responsible in the classroom. It says a lot about their character.”