Garden City coach Patrick Nee kept yelling "Michigan, Michigan" during the second half of a close game in an effort to get the ball to his sophomore center, Jamir Thomas, who wanted the ball.
The 6-foot-8, 250 pound sophomore had a game-high 22 points to lead Garden City Community College to a 70-69 win over NJCAA ninth-ranked Hutchinson on Wednesday evening. It was the first time since 2010 the Broncbusters beat the Blue Dragons at the Hutchinson Sports Arena, and it snaps a 10-game skid vs. the Dragons.
“Our kids and staff needed that one,” coach Patrick Nee said, referencing the Busters' two-game skid since Saturday, including a blowout loss to Seward County Monday. “So proud of them.”
Garden City (8-10, 3-6) led most of the game, but Hutchinson’s D.J. Mitchell cut the deficit to 57-56 off a 3-pointer with 5:44 left. The No. 9-ranked Blue Dragons (15-3, 6-3) trailed by seven points at the half but as much as 10 points during the game.
Mitchell, who scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, knocked down another 3-pointer with 4:55 to give the Blue Dragons a 59-57 lead — the first lead since the middle of the first half.
The crowd roared.
Garden city regained the lead seconds later off a 3-pointer by Thomas. He ran back on defense and did a "shh" gesture to the crowd as his team took a 60-59 lead.
The two teams went back-and-forth for the rest of the game.
It took an hour to complete a 20 minute half because of fouls. The Blue Dragons went to the line only six times in the first half, but 26 times in the second half.
Garden City went from six to 20 and the Blue Dragons — who are already without starter James Rojas due to injury — had two players foul out.
Trying to find an answer for Thomas, a Youngstown State signee, Blue Dragon coach Steve Eck switched to a zone.
Even then, with the score tied at 63, Thomas gave his team the go-ahead basket with 2:27 left. That’s when Chris Giles knocked down a 3-pointer to again put the Blue Dragons on top, 66-65.
Thomas split his free throws on the other end to tie the game at 66-all.
Then, Malique Jacobs knocked down both of his free throws to put the Blue Dragons up 68-66.
"Defense," the crowd yelled.
But Tony Hopkins drew the foul and sunk both free throws. Tied at 68, Saquan Singleton split a pair of free throws with 12.5 seconds left.
The Blue Dragons clung to a 69-68 lead.
However, Garden City’s Russhar Cruickshank managed to get to the line and knock down both free throws.
"Maybe our legs are gone, but never-the-less they out hustled us," Eck said. "Outcoached us."