NORTH PLATTE, NEB. - Who knows what Head Coach Patrick Nee said to his Garden City Community College team at halftime, but whatever it was, the Broncbusters looked like a completely different squad over the final 20 minutes on Wednesday.
Tahlik Chavez scored 14 of his team-best 19 points in the second half, Darius Roden added 15, and Garden City erased a 13-point deficit to beat North Platte, 86-79, at McDonald-Belton Gymnasium.
GCCC finished their three-game road trip 2-1.
"If you would have told me back in August that we'd go 2-1 on this trip, I thought you'd be lying," Nee said. "Otero was obviously the best of the three, but this was another good test for us."
Just 48 hours earlier, the Broncbusters were caught sleep walking through the first half against 17th-ranked Otero. The end result: they fell down by as many as 19; stormed back to take a two-point lead in the second half before ultimately running out of gas. Ironically, the first 20 minutes on Wednesday, was almost a carbon copy of that performance.
Garden City was totally out of sink in the first half, turning the ball over 15 times. The other issue was Courtney Murrell, who made one contested basket after another. His jumper with just over 14 minutes to go, put the Knights up 16-7, forcing Nee to call a timeout.
"We just didn't play very well to start the game," Nee said. "I think our guys overlooked them, and that's my fault."
Murrell added two free throws and a left-handed layup following a blown two-on-one break by Garden City, DaVonte Tharp swished two free throws, and Przemyslaw Zygmunciak turned a Broncbuster giveaway into a step-back three to put North Platte up 39-26 with just over two minutes to go in the half.
Garden City though found their stride late in the opening period. Chavez drilled a deep three from the left win, Daishaun Woods converted a second-chance bucket, Roden sliced to the rim, Naj Ashley-Emory hit a short jumper, and Chavez made two free throws to pull the Broncbusters within eight at the break, 39-31.
"I'll tell you this, if it wasn't for Traylynn (Spencer), we may have been down 30 at the half," Nee said. "He knew exactly what to say to his teammates to fire them up. And it worked."
In the second half, Garden City kept their foot firmly on the accelerator. Chavez dropped in another long triple, Emory beat his man off the bounce for an easy two, Chavez swished a three from the corner, and the Broncbusters were within two, 43-41. After the teams exchanged baskets, Emory tied it with a midrange jumper before Chavez's transition layup gave the Broncbusters their first lead since the opening minute.
"All four games this season we have really been clicking in the second half," Nee explained. "And that was the case again tonight."
While the Broncbusters continued to assault the Knights in the paint, Woods and Chavez owned the perimeter, each knocking down a trey before Chavez went the lenghth of the court for a layup that had the Broncbusters up four, 57-53 with 11:14 to play. Roden added a shot, Kaleb Favors had a layup, and Garden City extended the lead to six. They also got some help from the Knights' Luke Christen, who missed three free throws after being fouled on a three-point attempt.
The Broncbusters pushed the lead to as many as 10 with less than two minutes remaining after Roden dropped a perfect dime to Chavez for a layup followed by Roden grabbing his own miss and sticking it back home. The freshman also added a clutch free throw down the stretch, and Garden City completed their biggest comeback of the season.
Chavez knocked down four three-pointers for the Broncbusters. Spencer scored 14, and Favors and Emory each added 11.
Garden City will be back in action at home on Monday, facing Lamar, Colo., at 7 p.m. The game will be a blackout night, where fans are encouraged to wear black. There is also a canned food drive at the game.
Garden City 31 55 - 86
North Platte 39 40 - 79