It had been more than two decades, 20-plus years, since the Garden City Community College men’s basketball team had won at Coffeyville.
The No. 18-ranked Red Ravens also had not lost since early January last season and owned a 13-game homecourt winning streak.
But both of those streaks came to a screeching halt Wednesday night, when the Broncbusters knocked off one of the top teams in the Jayhawk Conference with a tough 78-69 victory.
The win in the team’s first game back after the semester break improved the Busters to 6-4 in the KJCCC and 10-4 overall. Coffeyville, meanwhile, falls to 7-3 and 10-3.
Coach Brady Trenkle saw his team improve its road mark to 5-1 and it was a perfect way to celebrate the new year after a more than three week break. The last time the Busters had been on the court was at home on Dec. 9, a gut-wrenching 93-92 loss to Pratt.
“The guys have been working hard to fix the things we weren’t doing well in the early part of the season,” Trenkle said afterwarfd. “Guys are getting better at doing the things we’ve expected of them.”
The Busters finally cashed in at the all-important free throw line, a place where they have been as cold as the North Pole, this night hitting 20 of 27 charities, many of them coming down the stretch.
“Sometimes, when you don’t talk about it, things get better,” Trenkle said of the charity stripe. “We hit ‘em pretty hard the first couple of days back, and then we haven’t mentioned it all. It’s a lot about focus and having the right mentality.”
Another strength also proved big for the Busters, that coming in the rebounding battle where they throttled the Ravens by an astonishing 46-29 margin. Jamir Thomas grabbed 8 to lead the way.
A balanced scoring attack was another signature point of the victory, with four players reaching double figures. Pierre Johnson topped that chart with 21 points, going 6 of 12 from the field (5 of 10 from 3-point range) and 8 of 11 free throws.
“A bunch of those (free throws) were down the stretch when you have to make them if you want to win the game,” Trenkle said.
Thomas and Kendale Hampton each contributed 13 points and Russhard Cruickshank rounded out the double figure scorers with 11.
The Busters had a solid night shooting from the field as well, connecting on 25 of 54 for 46.3 percent.
Then, there was the defensive side of things for the Busters, always considered a strength of a Trenkle team, but one he questioned after giving up 93 points to Pratt in their final December game.
Against the Ravens, the Busters limited the home team to a chilly 32.8 percent effort off 19 of 58 shots and just 4 of 18 from behind the arc (22.2 percent). The only thing that kept the Ravens in the hunt was at the stripe where they were 27 of 35.
“When our defense is good, and we guard really well like we did tonight, I think we’re pretty hard to beat,” Trenkle said.
For the most part, Trenkle approached the game with the Busters having nothing to fear about playing a nationally-ranked team.
“We overcame a lot against the odds,” Trenkle said. “I told the guys before that we had nothing to lose but to just go out and play. We were great on the glass. You’re a good road team, and I thought we just played that way for the most part.”
The Busters, a team that has had roller-coaster games during Trenkle’s tenure, broke out to an early lead, building it to as many as 14 before settling for a three-point halftime edge.
In the second half, the Ravens went up 49-48 only to have the Busters rattle off six unanswered points and never gave up the lead.
They were still in front by three, 59-56, after Coffeyville’s Travis Washington knocked down a pair of free throws (the Ravens were 27 of 35 from the stripe). With the outcome still undecided, and the Busters up by five with just under three minutes to play, Pierre Johnson made a pair of free throws and Jeff Otchere rammed down a thunderous dunk at the 1:20 mark to give the Busters a 70-61 pad.
They were up by 10 with just under 50 seconds when Jamir Thomas drained a pair of charities and the closest the Ravens could get was five, 73-68. Johnson canned another pair with 35 seconds to play and Otchere repeated his power dunk move with 24 seconds on the clock for a 77-69 lead. Kendale Hampton’s solo free throw with 18 seconds to play capped off the stirring victory.
The Busters were off and rolling early, moving from a 7-6 early lead into a 21-14 advantage on a Russhard Cruickshank 3-pointer just near the mid-point of the half.
Garden’s lead would grow to 25-14 and eventually expand to 33-19, the largest of the opening 20 minutes.
But over the final 6:27, the game closed thanks to the Ravens getting to the free throw a lot, and then knocking down some critical treys. A late 7-0 run by the Ravens closed the Busters’ margin to 39-36 at halftime.
The Busters are back in action Saturday with a scheduled 4 p.m. home matchup with Neosho County at Conestoga Arena at the Perryman Athletic Complex.