By the time Kendale Hampton’s 3-pointer hit the bottom of the net, Colby was already asking for a timeout, an attempt to stem the early tide against the Garden City Broncbusters on Feb. 24.
It didn’t work, as Russhard Cruickshank opened play after the stoppage with a 3 of his own, and the Busters were off and running in a 99-53 rout of the Trojans in an awe-inspiring, mouth-dropping display of offense — a school-record 17 3-pointers — and defense, holding Colby to 31.5 percent from the field.
It was the peak of the explosiveness the GCCC’s men’s team displayed this season.
“What we did to Colby that night was probably one of the best offensive performances in the history of this gym (newly named Conestoga Arena),” head coach Brady Trenkle said Thursday, after the Busters’ Tuesday's season-ending, 65-57 loss to Coffeyville in the Region VI semifinals, which somehow featured the Busters’ worst shooting performance of the season — 31.6 percent from the field.
“If a couple of things broke different, and we shot the ball a little bit better, we’re playing for the (region) championship,” Trenkle said.
As it was, the Busters reached the semifinals for the first time since 2009 and finished the season at 21-12. They now look forward to next year with a solid core of freshmen potentially returning, led by All-KJCCC first team selection Jamir Thomas and Cruickshank, whom Trenkle called a glaring omission from the all-conference teams.
“Those two are two of the best players this year, so it’s good to have those two,” Trenkle said, then referencing specifically Thomas, the 6-foot-8 big man. “It’s good to see a freshman that high up there (all-conference first team), so we know what to build around next year.”
Thomas led the Busters with 8.5 rebounds per game, and was second in scoring at 13.1 He also had 2.1 blocks per game.
Meanwhile, Cruickshank was particularly sharp from 3 late in the season, going 6 of 8 from deep in that Colby blowout. He hit six, seven and five in the next three games, as well, before going 3 of 15 against Coffeyville.
The Busters also could return Octavius Meadows (3.2 ppg), and reserves Tanner Smith, Dalvin Chapman, Logan Miller, Deshawn Kelly, Erwin Leal and LaColby Tucker. Jeff Otchere, technically a red-shirt freshman, likely will sign with a four-year school this spring.
But decisions about returners will be made in May, Trenkle said.
“There’s some guys who have to prove a lot to me in the spring,” Trenkle said, while not specifically naming players.
But this year’s composition of sophomores and freshmen was a solid pattern to follow for next year, he said.
“It was a perfect mesh. We had the right sophomores to help teach the freshmen,” Trenkle said. “We’ll probably have something similar next year, but maybe a few more sophomores than just four.”
All four of those sophomores this year, however, were major contributors, led by all-conference guard Hampton’s 13.7 ppg, and all-conference point guard Pierre Johnson’s 12.1 ppg and 5.6 assists per game.
Theo Holloway was also a sophomore with 7.3 ppg. But thanks in large part to Thomas’ and Cruickshank’s potential returning point averages, the Busters can still bring back 48 percent of their points per game to next season.
Contact J. Levin Burnfin at firstname.lastname@example.org.