Garden City Community College’s men faced a determined Odessa Junior College in Friday’s late matchup in the Thanksgiving Classic.
After sparring with the Busters for much of the first half, and after Garden City pulled to within a point in the second half, the Wranglers sped away for a 77-61 win.
The Broncbusters held the upper hand early, holding small leads as late as the 8:58 mark (18-17), before the Wranglers grabbed control of the first half that saw seven lead changes.
No. 7 Odessa grabbed a 31-27 lead with 3:05 left in the half, and neither team was able to score until the Wranglers’ Anthony Johnson drained a trey with 43 seconds remaining to take a 34-27 lead at the break.
Odessa (9-2) shot 53.8 percent from the field (14 for 26) while Garden City (5-2) was just 10 of 29 (34.5 percent), and the Wranglers outrebounded the Busters 16-9.
After the break, Garden City pulled to within one at 39-38 when Jakobi Pearson scored off a steal and drew a foul, but he missed the free throw.
One point was the closest the Busters could get, though, as Odessa reeled off eight straight points over the next 2:10 to grab its largest lead (47-38), which they increased to 15 (57-42) at 9:52 following a steal, goal tending call and free throw combination.
Everything seemed to go the Wranglers’ way, shooting 56 percent for the game (28 of 50), grabbing 32 rebounds and getting 10 players in the scoring column.
Garden City, on the other hand, was just 24 of 60 from the field (40 percent) — its worst shooting effort of the season — including 5 of 26 from beyond the arc.
The Busters got just 19 rebounds and were outscored 31-13 from the bench.
Garden City coach Patrick Nee said one good thing his team got from this game was what it’s going to be like playing a conference game as Odessa College is one of the top teams in the nation’s junior college ranks.
Defensively, the Busters played well “in spurts,” Nee said.
“You can’t get layups and 3s both, and we gave up both tonight,” he said. “When they’re scoring right in the paint two feet from the basket and they’re making 3s, that’s not very good defense.”
Nee said Odessa’s zone defense rattled his team too often, and he was disappointed when he saw his team give up on plays down the stretch.
“We’re going to go back to the film and get better from this,” he said. “The whole point of this weekend is to get us to the level where we’re ready for conference. If that means we have to lose two games this weekend to get ready (for Wednesday against Cloud County), then that’s fine.”
Garden City is still a team trying to find itself, Nee added, and Odessa is already there, just like Barton County, Hutchinson and Coffeyville in the Jayhawk Conference.
“That’s a team that’s going to be playing in the national tournament. Now we see what we’ve got to do to get to that level,” he said.
Jonas Parker led all scorers with 20 points for Odessa, with Jawaun Daniels adding 10 off the bench.
Garden City’s leading scorer was Pearson with 13 (10 in the second half), with Jamir Thomas and Jaleel Simmons both adding 10.
Garden City (5-2) will face New Mexico Junior College at 4 p.m. Saturday to close out the tournament, and Nee is looking for his team to come out with a different attitude.
“It’s going to be a dramatically different game. We probably saw the zone and trapping for 40 minutes (Friday night) and we’re probably going to see 40 minutes of man-to-man,” he said. “I think we’re just a better man-to-man team right now. That gets me excited — I can kind of control the tempo a little bit more by running sets and running plays.”