Sterling College’s Zacoyon Williams hit a 3-pointer in the waning moments of Wednesday’s game at Garden City Community College, prompting a negative reaction from Broncbuster head coach Patrick Nee.
It’s not that Williams’ 3-pointer put the Warriors ahead, or even made it less of a rout — the Busters won 93-52 to improve to 3-0 — it’s just that it broke the 50-point barrier.
Coming into the game, the Busters’ goal was to hold Sterling to fewer than 50 points at Conestoga Arena.
“That kind of upset me a little bit,” Nee said with a smile in the post-game.
The truth is, the game was never in doubt. It likely was over the minute the referee tossed the ball in the air for the opening tip. It might have been over when the Sterling bus dropped the junior varsity off, and maybe even when Nee woke up and brushed his teeth.
So with a blowout imminent, the Busters had to find something to focus on, to improve.
“We talked about our defense,” Nee said. “We wanted to grow our zone, and continue to get better at that.”
They did, holding Sterling to just 33.3 percent shooting from the field (18 of 54), while still getting out to contest 3-pointers out of the zone — the Warriors hit just 9 of 31 from beyond the arc.
“I thought the core of our group played really, really good defense,” Nee said. “I think we gave up 13 points in like 3 minutes to end the first half, and I think the same thing happened at the end of the game.”
It was actually 13 points in 5 minutes, but it was the game had already been decided in the first minute when Jaleel Simmons drove the lane and handed off to Jamir Thomas, who bullied his way for the opening slam.
Thomas had 16 points, on 8-of-12 shooting, and seven rebounds to help the Busters improve to 3-0. He was only outdone by Cheikh Kebe, who was making his season debut coming off an injury to score 19 points and haul in six rebounds. Kebe was 6 of 7 from the field.
As a team, the Busters hit 58.3 percent of their shots (35 of 60) and out-rebounded the much smaller Sterling team, 43-14. They had 59 points off the bench, led be Kebe, and 58 points in the paint. They did have 16 turnovers, however, perhaps their only area of struggle.
The Warriors, meanwhile, had 19 turnovers, and hit just three 3-pointers on 17 attempts in the first half.
“That’s the reason I wanted to work on the zone, because they’re a shooting team,” Nee said. “I wanted to show our guys this is not a pack-in (zone), we can extend on guys and do the same thing. I felt like we grew there.”
It took Sterling 15 minutes of game time to reach double digit points, and that came on a mid-range jumper from Darius Stewart. It was already 40-10 at that point, as the Busters dunked, shot and ran their way over the Warriors.
After Thomas’ dunk to begin the game, Tony Hopkins split defenders for a layup, and Sterling’s Nate Heneha sunk a 3-pointer to make it 4-3 Busters.
Garden City would go on a 22-1 run over the next 7-plus minutes.
Thomas sparked it by hauling in a long rebound, and the 6-foot-8, 250-pound big went coast-to-coast for a one-handed slam. The next possession, he flushed another off a lob from Simmons, who finished with just two points but had six rebounds and five assists.
Then Steven Samuels got in on the action on the next possession, slamming home an assist from Russhard Cruickshank, who sunk a 3-pointer on the very next possession.
Cruickshank had 10 points and and four assists. Jakobi Pearson had 12 points, as did Daishaun Woods.
The Busters’ largest first-half lead came with 2:10 remaining after a Woods’ jumper, before Sterling went on a 9-4 run to enter the break trailing 57-21.
Yet the Busters still stole the highlight in the final minute of the half, thanks to Kebe’s emphatic putback dunk in the waning seconds to put the exclamation point on the dominant 20 minutes.
Even in the second half, the Busters did not lose much energy. At one point, Thomas blocked a Sterling layup into the backboard, collected the rebound and threw out an outlet pass to Cruickshank, who drove the rest of the way and laid a pass off the backboard, to who else but a hustling Thomas.
Thomas just missed the highlight-reel dunk, but still got the ball to go in off the rim. It was just that kind of night for the Busters.