LA JUNTA, COLO. - It's hard to tell just how many games Garden City Community College will win this year. But one thing is for certain: even in defeat, the Broncbusters showed their second-year coach plenty of fight against an offensive juggernaut.
Idaho-transfer RayQuawndis Mitchell hit five 3's and finished with 23 points, Leighton Elliott-Sewell added 18, and No. 17 Otero held off a furious rally from Garden City to win 97-86 Monday at the McDivitt Center.
"I was just happy that we didn't fold," GCCC Head Coach Patrick Nee said. "We could have very easily been run out of the gym."
Nee wasn't lying. The game started out like a scene from a horror movie. After Daishaun Woods tied things up at nine, the Broncbusters went stone cold. Meantime, Otero was just catching fire. Marquise Johnson, who missed the last two games, knocked down a 10-footer, Sewell scored five quick points, Yaniel Vidal drilled a corner 3, and Johnson broke down the Broncbuster defense for an easy layup, capping off a 12-0 run that put Rattlers up 21-9 with 13 minutes to go in the first half.
"They're (Otero) a great offensive team," Nee said. "We knew that coming in."
Otero wasn't finished. Following Steven Samuels bucket that ended a near six-minute scoring drought for Garden City, the Rattlers hit the Broncbusters with a fierce combination. Vidal and Romon Douglas-Watkins connected on back-to-back triples before Vidal lobbed a perfect alley-oop pass to Jamal Harris, who skied for a two-handed jam and a 30-11 Otero lead. It was all part of a 21-1 surge that had the home crowd thinking runaway.
"Give our guys a lot of credit for fighting back," Nee said. "We just had to get our feet back underneath us."
The Broncbusters made a strong counter, and Darius Roden knocked down a 3, sparking an 8-0 Garden City run that was punctuated with a Tahlik Chavez bomb. The freshman guard added a runner in the paint, Roden twisted his way through the Rattler defense for a bucket, and Naj Ashley-Emory split two defenders, slicing the deficit to eight, 35-27 with 4:45 to go until halftime.
Garden City finished 11-of-22 from the stripe. But even with those struggles, the Broncbusters found a way to pull to within four at the break following Derrick Bryant's buzzer-beating trey from the top of the key that made it 47-43.
"I felt like we did a great job coming back in this game," Nee added. "But I felt like we were really fatigued in the last 10 minutes."
At the beginning of the second half, Garden City still looked fresh. Emory beat two men to the basket, and Chavez sank two technical free throws to tie the game at 47. Moments later, Emory struck again, which was followed by Woods backdoor cut and layup that gave the Broncbusters their first lead, 51-49 since the 16:20 mark.
Garden City's lead didn't last very long once Johnson hit a pair of free throws on the other end. Harris followed with a 3, and Mitchell put Otero up 59-51 with 14:37 remaining in the game.
The Broncbusters closed the gap to three points several times down the stretch, but the Rattlers answered every mini run with a backbreaking bucket. With eight minutes to go, Sewell was wacked across the face as he laid the ball in softly off the glass for a three-point play. The sophomore, who transferred from Polk State, added a nifty hook shot from the right block and another and-1 that stretched the Otero lead to 79-68 with 4:46 to go.
Otero finished the night 34-of-63 from the field (54 percent), the fourth time in their first six games they've shot better than 50. They canned double digit 3's for the third time this season (11-of-26; 42 percent) and outrebounded the Broncbusters 41-36. Sewell was a perfect 8-for-8 from the floor, Vidal netted 15, and Watkins tied a season-high with 12 boards off the bench.
Garden City shot 48 percent from the floor, shaking off a really-slow start. Chavez led the way with 20 points but was only 6-of-16 shooting. Darius Roden scored a season-high 19 points on 8-of-13, Samuels chipped in 12 points and nine boards, and Spencer tallied 10.
Garden City 43 43 - 86
Otero 47 50 - 97
The Broncbusters are on the road today for a 7 p.m. game at North Platte, Neb.