GCCC women come back for win at Cowley, 71-70
ARKANSAS CITY — Before Wednesday night's season opener, Antwain Scales reminded his girls that they would face plenty of adversity over a 40-minute contest. And they sure did as the home team hit them with a multitude of right crosses. But even after falling down by double digits in the first half, his squad never wilted, eventually finding a way to bring it home.
Sophomore returner and reigning conference defensive player of the year Donetria McGee scored a team-best 20 points, Aerihna Afoa chipped in 13 off the bench including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 5.1 seconds remaining, and Garden City stormed back from 16 down to beat Cowley 71-70 at William S. Scott Auditorium. It was the brown and gold's first win in the Tigers' gym since 2016.
"This was far from a perfect game," Scales said afterwards. "But we found a way to get it done, and I'm so proud of these girls."
The first 20 minutes were telling. Garden City struggled on both ends. And when the Tigers blitzed them with a 10-0 run to open their first double-digit lead of the game, the Broncbusters were reeling. That was followed up with nine straight points capped by Shontrice Austin's free throws that made it 37-21. The Broncbusters were down 14 at the intermission.
"We turned the ball over way too much in that first half, and we played right into their hands," Scales explained.
Seventeen giveaways in fact, which led Scales to deliver a rather fiery halftime speech. His girls definitely got the message.
Freshman Jill Stephens banged home a triple, McGee wiggled her way to the rim, and Afoa canned one of her three made triples to slice the deficit to eight at the end of the third. Then, after Cowley stretched it back to 10 with eight minutes remaining, Kelani Neves swished a longball and hit a layup, and the Broncbusters were within three.
"I never had any doubt that we would make a run," Scales said. "We just had to stop turning the ball over."
They cut their giveaways nearly in half over the final 20 minutes, and when Stephens swished a 3 from the top of the key with 1:00 to go, Garden City was down 69-68. That setup a dramatic last 60 seconds.
With a chance to make it a three-point game, Austin missed a free throw, and Justis Odom grabbed the rebound in traffic. With time running down, it was all instinct as the freshman post whipped a line-drive pass to Afoa, who found a sliver of daylight along the right wing before rattling home the go-ahead 3-pointer. That sent the Broncbuster bench into a frenzy.
"It felt good for sure," Scales said. "But we should never have put ourselves in that situation."
After a timeout, Cowley had one more chance to win it, but Austin's triple fell a foot short of the rim, giving Scales, the author of four state championships at Wichita South High School, and the man credited with turning the Colby women into perennial contenders in the Jayhawk West, his first victory in Garden City.
"We have a lot of work to do," Scales insisted. "Now we go back to work tomorrow."
Garden City won the game with an offensive explosion in the fourth, scoring 29 points after putting up just 23 combined in the first half. They shot 45 percent from the floor including 13-of-26 over the game's final 20 minutes. They out rebounded the Tigers 39-32 and won the game despite dishing out just seven assists.
Garden City hosts Sterling JV at 2 p.m. Saturday in its home opener.