There was not a ton of room for error for the Garden City Community College women’s basketball team this year.
They had just two players who had competed in the Jayhawk Conference previously, and one of those missed all but three games with an injury and the rest were brand new to the conference — or college basketball at all, in the case of the seven freshmen, as well as head coach Charinee Mitchell and her assistants.
“It was, honestly, a learning experience for me,” Mitchell said Thursday. “Being that it was my first year in the Jayhawk Conference, it was a learning experience for what teams do, the caliber of player in the league.”
And yet, despite major injuries to two offense-first guards in Monica Barefield and Talia Roberts, the Busters finished 20-12 and advanced to the region quarterfinals, where they lost to Hutchinson on Monday to end the season.
“For the first year being in this league, under a couple of coaches in their first year in this conference, I felt like they (players) fought all year,” Mitchell said.
And they seemed to hit their stride toward the end of the year, winning nine-of-10 games from late January through nearly the entirety of February. The only setback in the run was a controversial, one-point loss to Cloud County.
The streak included a win at Hutchinson, GCCC’s first win in the Sports Arena since 2004. Earlier in the year, the Busters won at Coffeyville, their first win on the road against the Red Ravens in 20-plus years. Mitchell called the wins “major milestones.”
“I’m proud of what the girls accomplished this year,” she said.
For those accomplishments, three Busters were named to the All-KJCCC second team — sophomores Jada Washington and Shakendra Tilley, and freshman Abi Green.
Green could lead a solid group of returners into the 2018-19 season, after averaging 9.9 points, 2.1 assists and 2.0 steals per game. Roberts, who played just 19 minutes in the final eight games of the season due to injury, also could return as a sophomore, after scoring 8.4 ppg this season.
Regular starters Kelcy McHenry (4.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and Daz Johnson (5.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg) may be a solid returning duo in the post. Aerianna Steinmetz — a Garden City High School graduate — Kelsey Parr, Kala Jones and Amaya Martin were also freshmen this season.
“We’ll look at what they’ve done over the season and what their offensive workouts look like,” Mitchell said, but adding that, at this point she’s expecting to bring back all of the freshmen next season.
Contact J. Levi Burnfin at email@example.com.