Broncbusters sink Cougars in final seconds, 96-94
GREAT BEND - Seven years had passed since the last time Garden City Community College won a game at the Kirkman Center. That was until Wednesday night, when Denver Jones and company ended a near-decade's worth of frustration for the Broncbusters.
The freshman guard tied a season-high with 27 points, Jasman Sangha added 20, and Rodney "June" Lewis hit the go-ahead jumper with six seconds remaining, giving Garden City a thrilling 96-94 victory over Barton County. The win now sets up a massive showdown on Saturday for second place in the west with rival Dodge City, which squeaked out an overtime victory over Seward County.
"I think this team has a chance to do something really special," said Head Coach Cole Dewey, who was an assistant under Brady Trenkle the last time the Broncbusters won in Great Bend. "I've said it from the beginning: these are all good guys, they're all good human beings, and they all love each other. I hope that this game, with these guys playing together for 40 minutes, I hope this can bring us together even more."
This will definitely go down as one of the best games of the year in the Jayhawk Conference. The lead changed hands 22 times with neither team taking more than a six-point edge. It also featured some high-level talent, led by Jones, whose soft touch in the early going had the Broncbuster offense in high gear.
The freshman scored Garden City's first eight points which included a beautiful three-point play where he beat Asanti Price to the rim off the bounce. But the Cougars responded quickly. Jaheim Holden nailed a 3, Desean Munson got loose for a two-handed jam, and Justin Harmon converted layup in traffic putting the Cougars up 16-11 five minutes in. Then, after a Khadim Samb dunk for Garden City, it was Harmon again, this time cashing in on a deep 3 to give Barton their largest lead of the half, 19-13.
"I just really loved our poise in this game," Dewey said. "We knew Barton was going to shoot lights out. They always do."
With Jones resting, Dewey inserted super-sub, JJ Watson, who immediately drained back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game. When Jones did reenter, he went right back to work, dropping in three straight triples to finish of an 11-0 run that put the Broncbusters up 42-36 with 2:20 remaining in the half. But as was the case all night, the lead disintegrated rather abruptly. El Dorado-native Jarin Koehler rattled home a trey before slicing to the rim for 2, and Harmon hit a pair of free throws after drawing a block on Lewis with less than a second to go, knotting the game at 46 at the break.
"I hope that this game gives these guys confidence that they can play with anybody," Dewey said.
No matter what happens the rest of the year, this much is for certain: as long as Jones is on the floor, Garden City has a legitimate shot. And that's a scary proposition for anyone.
Jones pullup and two free throws coupled with Samb's three-point play and Lewis's charity shot put the Broncbusters up by four with 15:00 remaining. It was one of seven lead changes over the final 20 minutes. But even when it appeared Garden City would take control of the game once Jones nailed a 3 to put them up 76-71 with 8:02 on the clock, the Cougars answered in a hurry. Munson hit a layup, Harmon drained a 3, and Shawn Warrior, who had hit only five shots from downtown all season, drilled back-to-back treys to give Barton an 86-83 advantage.
"We need to carry this momentum because from here on out, it's basically a game every other night," Dewey explained.
Over the final four minutes, Garden City closed the deficit to one five times, only to have Barton counter. But down by three with 1:16 left, Sangha punched the ball away from Harmon before wheeling around Munson on the other end for a layup. Then Dewey's bunch caught a break when Harmon, an 82 percent free throw shooter, clanged the frontend of a 1-and-1 off the back rim. Sangha grabbed the rebound with 16 seconds to play, and Garden City called a timeout.
"We had some long talks with these guys over the last two days since the Pratt game," Dewey said. "They know they've let some games slip away this season."
After failing to finish on Monday night, the message finally got through.
Once the Broncbusters escaped near disaster when Jones had the ball punched away momentarily in the backcourt, it was Lewis driving right into Holden while flinging up a 15-foot prayer that dropped through the net. Holden was called for a foul, Lewis hit the free throw; then Holden missed a layup at the buzzer on the other end, and Garden City survived
"June stepped up in a big-time way," Dewey mentioned. "He handled that pressure all night, and he got his teammates involved. He took good shots when they were there. Overall, I was very impressed with his performance."
Lewis finished with six points, six assists and four rebounds for Garden City, which avenged a nine-point loss to the Cougars at home back in Feb. Samb scored 16 points in 26 minutes, and Sanga went 8-for-11 from the field.
Munson tallied 25 points for Barton, who lost in the final seconds for the second straight game. Harmon scored 20, and Holden chipped in 12 in 28 minutes.
GARDEN CITY 46; 50; - 96
BARTON CO. 46; 48; - 94
The Broncbusters will host Dodge City for a 4 p.m. game on Saturday.