Grizzlies sink Broncbusters upset bid

GCCC Sports Information Services
Garden City Comunity College's Jill Stephens, left, steals the ball from Northwest Technical's Emmaline Rieder along the lane March 13 at Perryman Athletic Complex.

EL DORADO - If nothing else, Monday night's performance should scare the rest of the Jayhawk Conference. If it doesn't, then people aren't watching.

Skyla Knight scored 15 points including a go-ahead runner in the paint with 2.1 seconds remaining, and No. 10 Butler survived an upset-scare from Garden City Community College with a dramatic 57-56 victory at the Power Plant. The loss snapped the Broncbusters season-long five-game winning streak and dropped them to 10-8 overall and 9-8 in conference play.

"This one was tough," Head Coach, Antwain Scales said afterwards. "These young ladies did everything that we asked them to do, and they fought for 40 minutes."

Taking a quick glance at the Broncbusters' resume over the last month would be alarming to anyone in the league. They knocked off No. 23 Seward in Liberal on March 3, took No. 17 Hutchinson to the wire a few days later and ended Barton's conference-best eight-game winning streak with a statement victory in Great Bend last week. And on Monday, it appeared they had done it again, taking the best team in the league down to the wire.

Trailing by as many as nine late in the third quarter following an 8-1 Butler run, the Broncbusters easily could have packed it in. They did not, and when the fourth quarter started, Garden City went on the attack. Jill Stephens canned back-to-back 3-pointers, Aerihna Afoa connected from deep, and Garden City was up 42-40 with 7:51 remaining. Stephens added another triple a few minutes later giving the Broncbusters their largest lead of the night, 49-45.

"We have proven that we can play with anybody in this league and in the country," Scales said. "We had this one."

But the Grizzlies displayed a strong rebuttal, and Knight's 3-pointer from the left corner put Butler up 52-51 with :55 to go. Garden City however wasn't down for long. Following a timeout, Elisabeth Matas-Martin drained a trey from the right wing to give the Broncbusters a 54-52 edge. Then, after Butler went back on top following two free throws by Syncere Harrod, it was Afoa, slicing in from the right-side angle for a two-handed layup to give the road squad a 56-55 advantage with six seconds to play.

"We are right there, we just have to keep working," Scales explained.

All Garden City needed was one stop to walk away with their second road win over a ranked opponent this season. But Knight had other plans, driving across the lane in the final seconds before unleashing a teardrop that splashed through the net with two ticks on the clock to put Butler up one. And with no timeouts, Matas-Martin flung a 65-footer that fell five feet short of the rim, giving the Grizzlies a heart-stopping victory.

"What we did tonight shows that we are making progress," Scales said. "These girls fought, and we will get there. We just have to get in the gym tomorrow and get better."

Lost in the defeat was the defensive effort put forth by Scales' bunch, a collective strategy that limited the potent Grizzlies to a season-worst 31 percent shooting and 2-of-18 from downtown. It was a page out of Coffeyville's book, one that packed the paint and dared the 10th-ranked team in the nation to beat them from the outside. And for most of the night, the scheme paid major dividends.

Butler missed 14 of their 19 shots in the second quarter. But the problem was the Broncbusters were just as cold. They were just 5-of-21 from the floor through the first 20 minutes, and when the Grizzlies hit them with an 18-5 blitz early in the second period, Garden City was down 23-15. The home team was up seven at the break.

Paris Mullins was the only other Butler player in double figures-finishing with 10, but she was just 5-of-19 from the field. Cymirah Williams and Harrod each chipped in seven off the bench.

Stephens tallied 11 of her game-high 17 points in the second half including three fourth-quarter bombs for Garden City. Afoa added 16 and seven boards and Donetria McGee had seven points, four rebounds and five assists.

GARDEN CITY  13; 11; 9; 23; - 56

BUTLER  17; 13; 10; 17; - 57

The Broncbusters hosted Seward County on Wednesday.