GCCC men fall to Butler

EL DORADO - Entering Wednesday night's postseason opener, Patrick Nee's game plan was to try and slow down Butler's run-and-gun attack. And while he ultimately accomplished that feat, his own team couldn't find any rhythm on that end of the floor.

Juwan White scored all 17 of his points in the second half, Shawn Hopkins added 16 points and eight boards, and third-seeded Butler blew past Garden City 74-56 in the opening round of the Region VI Tournament at the Power Plant. The Grizzlies advanced to Sunday's quarterfinal against Neosho, who knocked off No. 6 Pratt. Meantime the Broncbusters finished with their fewest wins in nearly two decades.

"This season didn't go according to plan; it was not good at all," Nee said afterwards. "We couldn't get anything going all year, and tonight was basically the same thing."

Garden City's methodical approach worked early on, and after Daishaun Woods hit a flip shot in the paint, the Broncbusters were up 8-5. At the same time, the Grizzlies missed six of their first seven shots.

"I thought we had a really good game plan coming in," Nee said. "We got the ball right where we wanted to, but we just couldn't score."

Following a timeout, the Grizzlies answered back with a three by Kameron Brice and a floater by Javaunte Hawkins. After Tahlik Chavez tied the game with two free throws, Butler responded with 10 straight points, capped by Hawkins, who sped right past Chavez for a layup, prompting Nee to stop play again.

"Our timeouts were strategic in this game," he said. "We were trying to slow them down."

The only thing that came to a screeching halt was Garden City's offensive attack. The Broncbusters managed just two field goals over the final 11 minutes of the first half: a Derrick Bryant pullup and a Steven Samuels' layup. Other than that it was all Butler, who closed the period on a 14-4 run to take a 26-16 lead into the locker room.

"We did the same things this time around that we did the first time against these guys," Nee explained. "We didn't hit a 3 in the first half. And let's face it, when Tahlik is struggling, we struggle to score."

Chavez finished the first half with just four points on one-of-seven shooting. But he wasn't the only one held in check. As a team, Garden City bricked 20 of their first 27 shots.

"We just get to a point during the game where we don't have enough guys to put the ball in the hole," Nee added.

In the second half, Butler's offense finally found their footing. Lamar University transfer Grehlon Easter connected on a mid-range jumper; then nailed a three from the wing, White, who was once high school teammates with Atlanta Hawks' star Trae Young,  capped off his own 11-0 stretch with a three-point play, a layup and two free throws, and Hawkins buried a long ball to put the Grizzlies up 20, 53-33 with 11:03 to play.

"We still had way too many lulls on the offensive end in this game," Nee said. "It's been like that every game."

The only bright spot over the final 20 minutes was Chavez, who shook off his first-half struggles to score 15 of his team-best 19 points in the second half. He knocked down three triples; then blew past two defenders for a right-handed layup that brought Garden City to within 10 with 6:20 to go. But the Grizzlies answered on the other end, and Hopkins three-point play stretched the lead back to 14.

Traylynn Spencer scored 15 points and pulled down nine rebounds for Garden City, who lost for the 18th time in their last 20 games.

Easter scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half for Butler, which won a first-round game for the first time in three years.

Garden City 16-40 - 56

Butler 26-48 - 74