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Broncbusters rally falls short to Indy, 64-61

GCCC Sports Information Services
Garden City Cmmunity College's Kataria Zagorac, right, battle for control of a loose ball with Independence's Laurie Cren on the floor Wednesday at Perryman Athletic Complex.

It was Deja Vu all over again.

On opening night, Garden City Community Collegef ound themselves in a 16-point hole vs. Cowley, yet Antwain Scales' team found a way, and in the final seconds, Aerihna Afoa nailed the go-ahead 3, giving the Broncbusters a one-point win. Less than a month later, the brown and gold nearly pulled off the same feat. But this time, that much needed triple didn't fall when they needed it the most.

Rapuluchi Favor Ayodele Ngorka posted her fifth double-double of the season with 17 points and 17 rebounds, Delani Harris chipped in 14 points in 32 minutes, and Independence held of a Garden City surge to win 64-61 Wednesday night at Conestoga Arena.

"Our team needs to be consistent," Scales said afterwards. "We just didn't come to play today. We had our chances, but we can't keep digging ourselves into a hole like that."

The Pirates beat the Broncbusters for the fifth straight time, and improved to 8-1, their best start since 2017. Garden City dropped to 3-2 overall and 2-2 in conference play with their two Jayhawk losses coming by a total of five points.

"Credit Independence because they came in here and outhustled us."

And that was evident from the jump as the Pirates built an early 7-0 advantage. Garden City though appeared to settle in, and when Donetria McGee completed a three-point play, the Broncbusters tied the game at 8. But Independence owned the rest of the opening period. Eriel West canned an open triple, Ngorka made an easy layup, and Laurie Cren buried an 18-footer from the right wing, sparking an 11-2 run that put the Pirates up 19-10 after one.

And they didn't slow down in the second.

Maisa Marcal, who entered Wednesday night's contest as the seventh leading scorer in the conference, cashed in on a 3, West connected on a 23-footer, and Cren beat a late Broncbuster rotation before swishing a long ball from the left corner, giving the road team their largest advantage of the game, 34-18 with 4:10 remaining in the half.

"I'm not taking anything away from Independence, Scales said. "But a lot of what happened tonight, was self-inflicted."

But despite turning the ball over 10 times in the first half, the Broncbusters made a serious push late in the second. Elisabeth Matas-Martin hit nothing but net on a 3 from the wing; then walked into a straight-on triple moments later, Morgan-State transfer, Taylor Lawhorne scored five straight points, and Garden City finished the half on a 15-1 surge to pull to within three at the intermission, 36-33.

"We just didn't capitalize on our opportunities, Scales explained. "Every time we tried to make a run; we turned the ball over. That just can't happen."

Garden City continued to put the pressure on in the third quarter getting back-to-back treys from Matas-Martin and Brittany Mapang to even the score at 48. But just like in the first half, the Pirates countered, answering with a 13-5 run to build an eight-point cushion after Kaitlyn Rasmussen converted a second-chance bucket to put Independence up 61-53 with 5:20 to go.

"We had people in the wrong place at the wrong time," Scales said. "We didn't challenge 50-50 balls. I mean, it was everything. It was an uphill battle all night."

Still, the Broncbusters, who were without starting guard, Kealani Neves because of health and safety protocols, gave themselves a chance at the end of the game. Matas-Martin hit a tough baseline runner, Jill Stephens swished a 3, and Matas-Martin canned her fourth triple of the night, pulling the brown and gold to within three, 64-61 with 12 seconds to play. Then, following an Independence timeout, Alexis Smith punched the ball away from Marcal, and Matas-Martin sprinted the other way. But the sophomore's triple clanged off the front rim. Afoa grabbed the offensive rebound, and Scales called a timeout.

"We have to learn how to communicate better," Scales said. "These games aren't lost on gameday. They're lost in practice. We have to go back to the drawing board."

Once play resumed, Matas-Martin had a chance to redeem herself, but her 3 from just inside the left sideline smacked off the backboard as time expired, giving the Pirates a three-point win.

West finished with 12 points, four assists and three steals for the Pirates, which won their ninth straight road game dating back to last season. Cren tallied eight off the bench.

Matas-Martin scored a season-high 18 points and was 4-of-11 from downtown for Garden City. McGee posted a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards.

Independence  19; 17; 16; 12; - 64

Garden City  10; 23; 15; 13; - 61

Garden City will be back in action Saturday as they host Allen County for a 2 p.m. tipoff.