GCCC drops 14-point lead to lose to Pratt, 75-72
It was Deja vu all over again on Monday night.
Three weeks after they blew a 12-point second-half lead in a seven-point loss in Pratt, inexplicably, the Broncbusters did it again. This time, it was a 14-point collapse, and another tough pill to swallow for first-year Head Coach, Cole Dewey.
Harrison Eghan scored 14 points and pulled down nine rebounds, Eric Rhymes knocked down a season-high four 3's, and Pratt erased a double-digit deficit to sweep the season series from Garden City with a 75-72 win at Conestoga Arena. However, the Broncbusters caught a major break with the two teams in front of them in the Jayhawk West, Dodge City and Barton, both losing.
"Pratt was just tougher than us," Dewey said afterwards. "Every 50-50 ball went to them. We had guys fumbling the ball away the entire second half."
It was two halves that were complete polar opposites. In the first, Garden City broke open a 14-14 tie with 14-0 run. Jaduhkiss soto sank two free throws, KJ Marshall hit a tough layup; then nailed a 3, Denver Jones swished a triple, and Mason Osborne whipped a bullet feed to Riny Lual for a two-handed dunk, putting the Broncbusters up 28-14 with 5:57 to play.
"I mean, we just couldn't get the ball," Dewey said. "We just weren't strong enough."
But Sean Flynn's team, as they did in the first meeting, rallied right back. After they missed on their first eight triples, the Beavers connected on four straight to close the half. Eghan, who had only made six all season, canned back-to-back treys, Nasan Ayala dropped in a rainbow from the wing, and Tommy Thomas, whose backbreaking go-ahead triple in the Feb. matchup put the Beavers in front in the closing minute, beat the halftime buzzer with a long ball from the right corner, cutting Garden City's lead to 37-31 at the intermission.
"You had guys hitting 3's who hadn't shot the ball well from deep all year," Dewey explained. "But give them credit. They're tough, and they outplayed us."
And the Beavers kept coming in the second half.
Thomas completed a three-point play, Ayala grabbed an offensive rebound and laid the ball home, and Pratt was within two. Moments later, Malcom Whitlow, who was the No. 2 high school recruit out of Nebraska, gave Pratt a two-point lead with a five-foot banker. It was one of 14 lead changes over the final 20 minutes.
"We just have to learn how to win games," Dewey said. "We have talent; we have the guys who can get it done. But we can't keep losing these types of games."
The Broncbusters seemed to regain their footing with less than 10 minutes to go in the game. Trailing by one, Jasman Sangha drilled a 3 from the top of the key, and Soto finished off a three-point play to put Garden City up 59-54. But Dewey's squad could never create any real separation in the second half, and when Cam Morris, who was later ejected from the game for a flagrant-2 foul, and A.J. Weston completed back-to-back three-point plays, Pratt was back in front by one. They eventually stretched that to as many as six following 3's by Whitlow and Rhymes, whose longball came with the shot clock winding down and less than three minutes to go.
"We struggled offensively, and I don't understand why," Dewey stated. "We got tons of shots up the last couple of days. We had guys in here late on the gun."
With less than two minutes remaining, Garden City gave themselves a shot. Khadim Samb's layup, and Jones right-handed finish, pulled the Broncbusters to within one, 73-72 with 15 seconds left. But on the ensuing inbounds, the Broncbusters let 10 seconds run off the clock before finally fouling Whitlow. The sophomore hit two free throws to put Pratt up by three.
"We were trying to foul a certain player, and he got away from us," Dewey said. "We thought about fouling before the inbounds pass, but we 've done that before and have been called for an intentional foul."
With only four seconds on the clock, the Broncbusters had to go the length of the floor. Samb received Mohamed Diarra's baseball pass and spun to the right wing. But his off-balance 3-pointer barely ticked the front iron, and Garden City's late comeback attempt went up in smoke.
"We either get tougher, or we're not going to figure out how to win games," Dewey said. "If we don't figure it out, it's going to be a long stretch run."
Rhymes scored 12 points and dished out a season-best seven assists for Pratt, which snapped a four-game losing streak. Thomas chipped in 11, and Whitlow added 11 points and seven boards.
Sangha returned from an ankle injury to score 19 points for Garden City, but he didn't get much help. Jones, Garden City's leading scorer, was held to 14 points on just 3-of-12 shooting.
PRATT 31; 44; - 75
GARDEN CITY 37; 35; - 72
Garden City heads to Great Bend on Wednesday for a 7:30 p.m. game against Barton County.