Garden City tops Seward; snaps four-game skid
LIBERAL - There was no way on earth Antwain Scales was throwing in the towel after four consecutive losses. But he needed to see some fight from a team that frankly looked lost and overmatched in Monday's defeat in Concordia.
Forty-eight hours later, there was a renewed sense of purpose, and the first major upset of the season was choreographed by one of the winningest coaches in state history.
Jill Stephens scored all 15 of her points in the second half including three clutch 3-pointers, Donetria McGee added 14 points and seven boards, and Garden City Community College became just the third team to win a game in the Greenhouse since 2016, beating No. 25 Seward County 81-74 Wednesday night.
"I'm so proud of these young ladies," an emotional Scales said afterwards. "They executed the game plan, they came out to fight, and the results speak for themselves."
The much-needed win moved the Broncbusters to within a game of .500 at 5-6 and pushed them into a fourth-place tie with Northwest Tech in the Jayhawk West. Meantime the Saints lost their grip on first place in the division while blowing a halftime lead for only the third time in their last 80 games.
"Our expectations didn't waver," Scales mentioned. "I know we dropped four games in a row, but when I questioned the Lord if I'm doing the right thing, it happened today."
Seward County entered Wednesday's showdown masquerading as the Houston Rockets, a team whose sole offensive purpose was to shoot as many as 3's as humanly possible. In fact, first-year coach, Todd Ciochetto's team was second in the nation averaging 11 3-point makes per game. But on this night, Scales defensive philosophy was simple: hold the ball, run clock, and chase Seward County off the line. Check, check, and check.
The Broncbusters limited the Saints to a season-worst 3-of-20 from downtown while holding them under 40 percent from the field for the fifth time. Seward County was 0-for-7 from 3 over the final 20 minutes.
"We did exactly what we were supposed to do on defense," Scales said.
The offense wasn't too shabby either.
Garden City scored the first four points of the game, led by as many as five on two separate occasions in the first half following McGee's layup; then polished off a 13-4 run with Elisabeth Matas-Martin's floater from the left baseline that had the Broncbusters up 27-22 with 5:25 to play in the half. But the Saints answered with a 7-0 blitz of their own capped by a Sydney Wetlaufer triple that put the home team on top by four. It was one of seven lead changes in the first half. Seward County was up 36-35 going into the locker room.
"We made a lot of mistakes in this game, but the fight was there, and that's what I wanted to see," Scales explained.
And when it appeared Seward County would make their move and pull away following a 10-1 run that put them up 64-59 with 6:22 to play, it was Stephens drilling a 3 from the corner while simultaneously being shoved to the ground by Sierra Lynch. The freshman then completed the four-point play with a free throw before knocking down another momentum-shifting triple with three minutes to go, Kealani Neves swished a bomb from the left wing, and Garden City had the lead for good, 73-71. The sophomore guard added a sweet driving finger roll, Elizabeth Sherrill converted a layup underneath the basket, and the Broncbusters finished off the Saints with a 14-3 counterpunch, holding the home team without a field goal over the final three minutes.
"When I recruited Jill, I told her that she's going to have to make some big shots in some games this year," Scales recalled. "And she delivered for us tonight."
The freshman notched a season high in points and rebounds, pulling down six, while finishing 3-of-4 from the field and 6-of-7 from the line for Garden City, which snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Saints. Neves finished with 11, and Matas-Martin and Taylor Lawhorne chipped in 10 apiece off the bench.
Wetlaufer, Seward County's leading scorer, was held in check, finishing with just six points on 2-of-5 shooting in 27 minutes.
In its next action, Garden City will host Hutchinson at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Garden City 17; 18; 21; 25; - 81
Seward Co. 18; 18; 18; 20; - 74