Broncbusters tie school record for 3s in win

GCCC Sports Information Services
Garden City Community College's KJ Marshall Jr. goes up for a three-point basket against Barton County Feb. 24 at Perryman Athletic Complex.

LIBERAL - Cole Dewey said it loud and with purpose the minute he left Otero for Garden City Community College.

"We are bringing the tradition back," he stated his first month on the job. "We have to let people know that Garden City is back."

The Broncbusters still have plenty of work to do before they can scream that from the mountaintops just yet. But Wednesday's road win in Liberal provided a glimpse of a basketball revelation fueled by ball movement and player movement. Welcome to a new age of Junior College hoops authored by one of the brightest young coaches in the country.

JJ Watson put together another spectacular night, scoring a season-best 26 points, his team tied the school record for 3's in a game with 17 while dishing out 21 assists on 27 made baskets, and Garden City won its third straight contest, beating Seward County 89-82 in the Greenhouse.

"JJ is a heck of a player," Dewey said after the game. "He's starting to figure out what we need him to do. Obviously, he's a tremendous offensive player."

Watson's offensive explosion catapulted the Broncbusters into a second-place tie in the Jayhawk West with Dodge City, a game (in the loss column) behind division-leader Hutchinson, who visits Conestoga Arena on Saturday.

"Seward makes it very hard for you to get layups," Dewey explained. "Every time we drove to the rim, they had one or two guys waiting on us. So, we kicked out to an open man; then when they closed, we found the next open man."

And man, were they open.

Over the first 20 minutes, the Broncbusters channeled their inner 2016 Golden State Warriors, putting on an offensive clinic. They connected on 11-of-17 from deep, shot 59 percent from the field (17-of-29) and dished out 13 assists.

"This team is loaded with shooters, and while I don't expect us to shoot 60 percent every night, this is definitely what they're capable of," Dewey added.

Garden City led by as many as 12 in the first half after Mason Osborne canned a trey from the right wing, setup beautifully by Watson's skip pass that put them up 22-10 with 11:05 to go. And after Seward County responded with a 16-4 run to tie the game at 26, it was Watson hitting a pair of step-back 3's, Mohamed Diarra nailed a triple from the right-side angle, and Denver Jones capped a 13-4 surge with a 26-footer, putting the brown and gold up nine at the intermission.

"Early in that first half, there were some beautiful basketball plays," Dewey said with a smile. "Our guys just kept finding their brothers, next open guy to the next open guy. It's something that we preach everyday: just make the simple play."

The problem for Seward? Garden City didn't exactly cool off after the break.

Khadim Samb got inside for a two-handed slam, Watson nailed three more triples, Jones added one from deep, and the Broncbusters were up 67-51 with 10:57 to go.

But when a team has won only twice in the Greenhouse since 2007, most would understand why there was no way the Saints were going to fold. And over the next eight minutes, Jason Sautter's team carved into the big deficit.

Following a timeout, Seward County ripped off 10 straight points to pull to within six. That was followed by Ahamadou Sillah's two free throws and Mike Rivera's soft hook in the paint that made it a four-point contest. After Garden City pushed it back to eight on Watson's sixth 3 of the night, the Saints made one last ditch effort to steal the game. Samuel Henderson converted two free throws, Erik Pratt hit his lone triple of the night, and Branton McCrary got the crowd to its feet with a triple from the left corner, pulling Seward County to within one, 82-81 with 1:27 remaining.

"At the end, we were just trying to find a way to win the game," Dewey said. "We threw a bunch of different defenses at them. We were in a triangle-and-two, but they kept scoring against it, so we got out of it. I thought the 2-3 zone was our best defense tonight."

Needing an answer on their ensuing possession, Jones saved a pass from going out of bounds at half court. While in the air, he was nudged from behind by Sillah. The freshman responded by burying two free throws, Jaduhkiss Soto spun baseline for a beautiful two-handed finish, and Watson hit three free freebies down the stretch as the Broncbusters closed the game on a 7-1 run.

Jones scored 23 points and was 6-of-9 from downtown for Garden City, which won their third straight road game. Soto chipped in 14 points and six rebounds, and Osborne had 12.

Henderson finished with 18 points for the Saints, which lost their fifth straight game. Pratt, their second leading scoring coming in, was limited to just seven points on 1-of-7 shooting.

Garden City will be back at home on Saturday when they host Hutchinson at 4 p.m.

Garden City  48; 39; - 87

Seward Co. 39; 43; - 82