Allen County kept coming. The red-hot Red Devils matched every Garden City Broncbusters’ run.
Tyler Williams was borderline heroic for the Devils, hitting 3-pointers over the out-stretched arms of defenders, and wrapping layups around the towering Buster posts for a bucket when the Devils absolutely needed it.
But it was not enough, as the fifth-seeded Busters powered through 12th-seed Allen County’s upset bid for a 91-85 win on Thursday evening at Conestoga Arena in the Region VI tournament first-round game.
“Nobody is killing anybody in this (tournament),” GCCC head coach Brady Trenkle said after the win, which featured 14 lead changes and 12 ties. “A win is a win, though.”
The Red Devils came into the game with four-consecutive wins, the second longest streak in the conference. They had hit 52 3-pointers in those four wins, hitting 45.6 percent of their tries.
Williams hit four Thursday night, including a game-tying trey early in the second half.
But the Busters’ offense — led by Jamir Thomas’ double-double and Russhard Cruickshank’s 5 3-pointers and 25 points — kept topping Allen’s effort. It was back-to-back Cruickshank 3-pointers midway through the second half that gave the Busters the final lead.
He hit one after an Elvis Harvey steal, and then got a steal of his own on the ensuing Allen possession, passed the ball on the fast break, and then hit the second 3-pointer when the ball was passed back out on the drive, putting the Busters up 60-55.
From there, the Busters maintained the lead, despite punch after punch from the running Red Devils, who had gone on an 11-0 run early in the second half to tie the game at 53. A Thomas free throw gave the Busters back the lead briefly.
“We had to stay poised — don’t panic,” Cruickshank, whose hit 27 treys in the last six games, said.
It was his poise at the free-throw line that sealed the win. Allen County was fouling in the final minute to try to cut into the Busters’ single-digit lead, and Cruickshank went to the line for two twice. He was a perfect 4 for 4, keeping the Devils at bay.
The Busters shot 45.2 percent from the field and were 16 of 19 from the free-throw line. They were 9 of 24 from 3-point range, and scored 1.15 points per possession, their second-best mark since Jan. 27.
But Allen County kept with them, hitting 43.1 percent of its shots and a perfect 11 of 11 from the free-throw line. The Devils were 12 of 31 from deep.
And Williams hit a couple of circus shots from both the 3-point line and inside the paint.
“What do you do?” Trenkle said. “That’s Tray Young-type of shots. I’m not comparing the players, but that’s the type of shots. How do you stop that?”
The Busters didn’t quite have an answer as Williams led the Devils with 25 points. But they did manage to hold down the Devils’ second-leading scorer, forward Jordan Marshall, to just five points on 2 of 8 from the field.
The Busters had seven blocks, including four by Elvis Harvey, and Jeff Otchere and Jamir Thomas each had one, while affecting the usual arc of other Devils’ shots by their presence in the paint.
The first half was not quite as explosive as the second half — when Garden hit 51.4 percent of its shots and Allen 46.2 — but it was back-and-forth, featuring 10 lead changes.
Pierre Johnson’s layup with 1:42 to go in the first half provided the Busters a 38-37 lead at the break.
The Busters advance to the region quarterfinals, where they will face No. 4 seed Cowley at 3 p.m. Sunday at Hartman Arena in Park City. Allen County’s season finishes at 10-21.