Lady Busters look to improve, even after 14-0 start




Yes, the Garden City Community College women's basketball team finished its nonconference slate undefeated. GCCC is 14-0 and ranked No. 11 in the latest NJCAA poll.

And yes, there's still work to do for the Lady Broncbusters.

They could be better on defense. They could foul less and make more shots from outside.

So after the first half of the season, the Busters aren't completely satisfied with their play. At the same time, there's a lot to be happy about — like the fact they're off to what is believed to be the best start in program history.

"Obviously, really proud that our team has came together and played together, and competed and played really hard," head coach Alaura Sharp said. "They've earned every single win that they've had."

Picked in the preseason coaches poll to finish second in the Jayhawk West, the Busters haven't disappointed. Garden City is one of two undefeated teams in the division, along with NJCAA No. 2 Hutchinson, which is 13-0.

GCCC is undefeated largely on the strength of its offense, led by reigning KJCCC freshman of the year Tamara Jones, whose 21.6 points per game lead the division. As a team, Garden City averages 79.4 points per contest, best in the conference.

Shicole Watts is fifth in the Jayhawk West at 15.1 points per game, and Deni Jacobs is 11th in the division, despite coming off the bench, averaging 12.9 points.

"I feel like offensively, we're executing our offense pretty well," Sharp said. "I felt in the NEO (Northeastern Oklahoma) game and the Seminole (State, Okla.) game, both. As a coach it's — execution becomes really important in conference play. And being able to come out of a timeout and execute what your coach has drawn up on the board, to put us in the best position to score. And we've been doing really well in that area."

Sharp added that the Busters have gotten to the free-throw line — and converted — better as the season has gone on, and they're turning the ball over less.

Still, after a hot start to the season shooting from outside, Garden City has struggled to convert 3-pointers, making 31.9 percent as a team.

On defense, the Busters are holding opponents to 32.3 percent shooting from the field and 52.8 points per game. But after saying preseason that the team's identity would begin on defense, Sharp said there's a lot to work on on that side of the ball.

"But I do feel like we have some chinks in the armor on the defensive end," she said. "I feel like there's some areas that we've almost lost ground on. I don't feel like we're defending the ball as well as we did right away, we're not keeping the ball in front of us as well."

Garden City also fouls too much, and Sharp said a lot of them are silly mistakes that can be avoided. Foul trouble has kept Jones and many of the other starters on the bench for long periods in a lot of games. Starting guards Mikell Chinn and Tahlia Pope also have been prone to committing too many fouls, especially early in games.

"Every team that I've ever coached has been phsyical," Sharp said. "We do pressure the ball, we try to get into people. So I think you've got to live with a few more fouls. It's the key people being in foul trouble. That's the things that we have to understand, is when you go back and watch film, Tamara's not getting fouls being physical, playing post defense, it's attacking an offensive rebound, it's decision making. So we can improve our decision making, as far as fouling goes."

The positive to come out of that is the important minutes the Garden City reserves have gotten as a result. Jacobs often provided a spark off the bench, and although Jessica Goble is a starter, she's logged a lot of minutes out of position at point guard when Chinn has been off the floor.

"I think the best saying about that is, we've had some significant leads, and our bench has got a ton of experience," Sharp said. "They've had to play in blowout games, and they've had to play major minutes in close games. I feel from top to bottom, from No. 1 player to 11 player, they're all getting really key, significant experience."

Sharp admitted her reserves haven't always come up big, and added that while the Busters have been able to get to the free-throw line, the bench players need to do a better job of getting momentum-swinging field goals.

Garden City also hasn't really had to come from behind yet this season, and Sharp said she's not sure how the Busters might react to that situation.

That's not to say the team has played a soft schedule. But it has gotten its fair share of lopsided wins. And the Busters have grown along the way.

Following close wins over Trinidad State (Colo.) and Allen in mid-November, the Busters realized they needed to put a better effort in during practice. The following weekend, Jones scored a career-high 36 points in an 80-60 win over then-No. 14 New Mexico Junior College, and the Busters avenged their modest eight-point win over Trinidad State by blowing the Lady Trojans out, 89-43, the following night.

It's that mindset that has Sharp feeling positive about the start of Jayhawk West play in two weeks — a gauntlet that starts Jan. 5 against 12-2 Butler, then continues with games against Hutchinson and 10-3 Barton.

"It's very easy to try to treat junior college like AAU, and just kind of not prepare yourselves as a team," Sharp said. "But they do believe in preparation, and they do believe in the effort that it takes to play at a high level and compete at a high level. I don't like using the word confident, I guess. But I believe in them, and I know that they believe in themselves."

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