The high-flying Garden City Broncbusters of early in the 2018-19 basketball season are no defensive stalwarts.
At least, they were Wednesday at Conestoga Area, where the Busters snapped a five-game losing streak with a dominant 79-59 win over visiting Neosho County.
“Our kids needed that win — the coaching staff needed that win,” GCCC head coach Patrick Nee said as the Busters improved to 7-8 overall and 2-4 in the KJCCC West.
The Panthers (11-6, 4-3) came into the game averaging more than 80 points per game, and scoring 1.06 points per possession — one of the best three marks in the KJCCC.
The Busters held them to 59 and a measly 0.75 points per game, handing the Panthers their first road loss of the season.
“I thought for the first time all season we really got down and defended,” Nee said. “We did a nice job of fighting through ball screens — that’s a lot of their offense.”
The Panthers shot just 33.3 percent from the field (22 of 66) and 19.2 percent from 3-point range (5 of 26), and the Busters — who came in as one of the worst rebounding teams in the league — cleaned the glass, out-rebounding the Panthers 49-33.
The effort was led by Jamir Thomas, who was one of three players suspended for the final three games of the fall semester, and who struggled in his first game back on Saturday in the Busters’ loss to Independence.
But on Wednesday, Thomas recorded his first double-double since the season opener, racking up 13 points and 12 boards.
“It’s one of the first games where he’s really attacked, got some dunks and really been aggressive,” Nee said. “I’m proud of him, Tony Hopkins and Jaleel Simmons — all three guys we suspended have really stepped up with great energy.”
The trio were suspended for what Nee said was violation of team rules, but he also noted they needed to come back to the team in January and compete in a more “team-like” fashion.
They did — Hopkins had 13 points and six rebounds, and Simmons had two points and five assists, after a nine-point effort Saturday.
“It’s just a learning experience, just trying to get back and get the team a win,” Thomas said. “The suspension was kind of good — learned a lot from it.”
But it was the consistent sophomore Russhard Cruickshank that got the Busters going early, hitting a trio of early 3-pointers after the Busters fell behind 5-0.
The helped the Busters out to a slim 19-18 lead, before Thomas got a layup to go to spark an 11-0 run. That helped Garden City hold a 32-26 lead at the half.
Early in the second half, Hopkins got a driving layup to go and then Cruickshank stripped Neosho County’s Brian Tolefree and exploded the other way for the 41-31 lead as the Busters took a double-digit lead they would not relinquish.
“We were hungry,” Thomas said. “We wanted it.”