Lady Busters win after 17-point deficit
By ADAM HOLT
It was maybe the most improbable win of the season for the No. 12 Garden City Community College women's basketball team.
Already down to a seven-player rotation, two Lady Broncbusters missed practice this week with the flu, and point guard Mikell Chinn sat Monday and Tuesday, out with a sore knee.
So a 17-point hole early in the second half against Seward County, an upper-echelon Jayhawk West team, didn't look good.
The Busters didn't seem to care, though, ramping it up on defense and clawing all the way back to nab a crucial 65-56 win Wednesday over the visiting Lady Saints.
"We are beat up. Really, especially me playing 40 minutes," Chinn said. "I played 40 times three? The past three games, I've played 40 minutes straight. I'm exhausted, I'm not even gonna lie. My body's tired; my knee's kinda in pain. That's just how it is; you've gotta be tough to get over the hump."
Seward County (13-6, 4-2 KJCCC) led 33-24 at the half, and scored on four of its first five possessions of the second half to go up 41-24. Garden City (19-2, 5-2) tied it up with 2 minutes, 21 seconds to play, and Tamara Jones, one of the sick Busters, scored on a driving layup on the baseline around Marta Oledzka to put GCCC up 58-56 with 1:26 to play. Seward County didn't score another point, and Garden City nailed free throws to salt away the win.
Garden City's defense came alive in the final 16 minutes of the game, forcing 12 second-half turnovers. After Seward took a 41-27 lead, Garden City went on a 16-3 run to pull within 44-40. In that span, four different Busters went to the free-throw line, and they went a perfect 8-of-8.
Free throws, which haven't been a strength for GCCC this season, were key as the Busters pulled themselves back into the game. Garden City made 19 in a row to start the second half, and finished 24-of-28 for the game — the Busters entered converting at a 62.5 percent clip.
"It's the difference," GCCC head coach Alaura Sharp said. "Going to the foul line and going and getting two, as opposed to 1-of-2, which is what our percentage has been the last few games. "
The Saints pushed the lead back out to eight by the 9:47 mark of the second half, and the teams traded blows over the next two minutes, with a Chinn 3-pointer making it 50-46. Two Jones free throws pulled it to 52-50 with 4:30 to play.
Chinn drove the lane and found Brittany Maxwell on the low block for a layup to tie it at 52 with 3:49 to play.
Jones had a game-high 25 points, including 12-of-13 at the line. Chinn added nine points and five assists, while Deni Jacobs had eight, and Allegria Chisom and Kenee Green each added seven.
Garden City held Seward County to 12 points over the final 15 minutes of the game, forced turnovers and bad shots, and prevented the Saints from pulling away at critical junctures in the game.
"I thought we really got them frustrated," Sharp said. "That was the biggest thing. We weren't turning those points into turnovers right away, but we were eating up the clock, we were killing their momentum, and we were getting them really frustrated."
Seward County got 15 points from Monte Fabiana and 23 from Madison McClain. Former Satanta standout Kelsey Blair was 1-of-7 with a 3-pointer, and former Cimarron Bluejay Avery Burns made her lone attempt of the night, also a trey.
GCCC's usual formula of pounding it inside to the post was scrapped against a big SCCC team. Oledzka is 6-foot-6, and two other Saints are 6-foot or taller. Often, Jones would sit outside to draw the larger post players out and create some more space for her teammates to attack.
"Bring the big girl out, because she was gonna block everybody's shot," Jones said of the game plan.
It's hard to call a game in January a must-win, but the victory over Seward was crucial for Garden City's hopes to stay in the top four in the division. At 5-1 in division play, GCCC has sole possession of third place behind 6-0 Hutchinson and 5-1 Cloud County, which lost to Butler on Wednesday. Garden City now holds tiebreakers over 4-2 Seward County and Butler, but has to play both teams again on the road.
"I laid it all out there, I let them know how big the game was," Sharp said. "That's something I really hadn't done before."
Garden City is taking today off from practice, and next plays at 2 p.m. Sunday at Dodge City.
Seward County (56) — Jones 1-5 0-0 2, Monte 7-11 0-1 15, Oledzka 1-4 0-2 2, McLain 5-17 0-0 12, Brooks 3-8 1-2 7, Blair 1-7 0-0 3, Burns 1-1 0-0 3, Ryan 3-3 0-0 6, Tammen 2-2 2-2 6. Totals 24-58 3-7 56.
Garden City (65) --Jacobs 2-7 4-6 8, Chisom 1-4 4-4 7, Jones 6-13 12-13 25, ope 2-8 0-1 5, Chinn 3-11 2-2 9, Green 2-7 2-2 7, Maxwell 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 18-53 24-28 65.
Halftime — Seward County 33-24. 3-point goals — Seward County 5-24 (McClain 2-11, Burns 1-1, Blair 1-6, Monte 1-4, Jones 0-2), Garden City 5-14 (Chisom 1-2, Pope 1-1, Jones 1-2, Chinn 1-4, Green 1-4, Jacobs 0-1). Fouled out — Seward County (Monte, Brooks). Rebounds — Seward County 34 (Brooks 10), Garden City 38 (Jones 9). Assists — Seward County 9 (McClain 3), Garden City 10 (Chinn 5). Turnovers — Seward County 20, Garden City 19. Technical fouls — Seward County (Jones). Total fouls — Seward County 17, Garden City 11.