During the first six weeks of the 2017-18 season, the Garden City Community College women’s basketball team had hung its hat on playing strong defense.
That had worked especially well in the Broncbusters’ final two games before the semester break when they won back-to-back games, giving up just 75 points in that pair of victories against Pratt and Otero, Colo.
Wednesday night, with the re-start of the two distinct separate seasons, the Busters took that defense on the road to battle Coffeyville’s Red Ravens in a Jayhawk Conference battle.
And despite not having been on the court for 22 days, the Busters came up with their version of Happy New Year with a stunning —— victory over the Red Ravens.
The victory allowed the Busters to improve to 5-5 in the Jayhawk Conference and 8-6 overall while Coffeyville dropped to 6-4 in the KJCCC and 8-6 overall.
Trailing early by as many as 11 points after a Coffeyville 9-0 start, and giving up 20 points in the opening quarter, the Busters only yielded 39 points over the final 30 minutes to capture the all-important road game, and capture for the first time this season, their third win in a row.
It was just what coach Charinee Mitchell was looking for after her team returned from the long holiday break.
“We made the shots tonight, and that was one of the biggest changes for us,” Mitchell said. “We were also able to change our defenses and do so effectively. The kids did a great job of understanding what we wanted them to do.”
Mitchell said she had the Busters switch from their usual man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone, a full-court and half-court presses at different times, trying to keep the Ravens off balance.
“What that allowed us to do was to get in good position, and either get a rebound, or get a turnover or force them to miss a shot,” Mitchell said.
Over the final 10 minutes, the Busters went from up three, 46-43, and built leads of up to 10 points, 55-45, and then got it to 11, 57-46, at the 7:35 mark.
They weathered a final flurry by the Ravens down the stretch, seeing their margin shrink to five points, 64-59, with 33 seconds remaining. But freshman Talia Roberts knocked down two insurance free throws at 0:23 for a seven-point margin that would hold up.
“It’s a big step for us to get this kind of a win on the road,” Mitchell said. “We got people stepping up and the biggest was Daz (‘Monique Johnson, 5-11, Fr.). She owned the paint on both ends. She just took care of the paint.”
The Busters finished the game hitting 44 percent of their field goals (24 of 55) and were 4 of 14 from behind the arc. The had a season-high 22 assists, with Jada Washington dishing out 10 of those. They hit 14 of 20 free throws and owned a commanding 36-24 advantage on the boards. The only downside came with their 19 turnovers.
“The way we played, and executed, it’s not a surprise we did so well on the boards,” Mitchell said. “This is a big boost to our confidence. Coffeyville had just lost once at home.”
Johnson led the Busters with 18 points while Roberts tallied 13 and Shakendra Tilley contributed 10.
Coffeyville, meanwhile, was 20 of 50 from the field for 40 percent, including 8 of 22 from 3-point range. The Ravens turned the ball over 15 times and had 13 assists on their 20 made baskets.
For the Ravens, Tatiana McCree and Lucy Burke led the scoring with 16 points each and Sky Jasper added 13.
Coming out of the halftime break, the Busters continued to play stingy defense, and utilized some transition offense to score key buckets in the third quarter.
Down by just one, 36-35, in the early portion, the Busters then went on a 5-0 mini-run for a 40-36 lead and eventually owned a six point spread at 44-38 and 46-40.
But with just :03 left, Lucy Burke drilled a long-range trey despite defenders draped over her, making it 46-43 heading into the final 10 minutes.
After a sluggish start in which they fell behind 9-0 and 15-4 in the opening minutes, the Busters answered with a strong surge, eventually drawing even at 15-all with just over a minute left in the opening stanza. The Red Ravens scored five straight points, though, to take a 20-15 lead at the first break.
That spread would grow to seven points, 29-22, and it wasn’t until Kala Jones’ left-handed layup that the Busters grabbed a brief lead, 31-30, with 2:12 left in the half.
Coffeyville got its sixth 3-pointer and Jones hit a bank shot just before the intermission buzzer to send the game into the break all tied at 33.
The Ravens, who had just been hitting 27 percent of their shots behind the arc, were 6 of 10 from deep in the first half.
Sky Jasper scored 10 points in the opening half for Coffeyville but had to sit a good portion of the second while saddled with two fouls.
The Busters were 13-of-29 shooting for 45 percent in the opening 20 minutes, with Shakendra Tilley leading the way with 9 points. They owned a 17-13 edge on the boards. Coffeyville, meanwhile, was 12 of 25, just under 50 percent, while Tatiana McCree and Lucy Burke contributed 9 points each.
Next up for the Busters will be a 2 p.m. Saturday tip-off at home against Neosho County at Conestoga Arena.