Broncbusters knock off Butler to advance

GCCC Sports Information Services
Garden City Community College's Denver Jones, left, drives past Neosho County's Cougar Downing on his way to scoring a basket during a February game at Perrryman Athletic Complex.

EL DORADO - Entering Monday night's postseason opener, Garden City Community College had won just one game in the Power Plant in nine years. And while a six-game Broncbuster losing streak had most believing they had no shot, Cole Dewey's team found a way, knocking off the heavily-favored Grizzlies.  

Denver Jones scored 24 points, Rodney "June" Lewis poured in a season-high 20, and the Broncbusters knocked off sixth-seeded Butler 79-69 in the first round of the Region VI Tournament. They advanced to play Barton County in the quarterfinals on Wednesday night in Great Bend.

"Denver can really score it, but he does so many other things," Dewey said afterwards. "He's an incredible defender, and he is a great human being. He brings our guys closer together. He's so unselfish, and with him on the floor tonight, he was able to create for others."

Garden City controlled the tempo from the jump. Jones moved around a pick from Khadim Samb and drained a 3 from the top of the key, Samb followed with a two-handed dunk, and Mason Osborne found a lane to the basket, putting the Broncbusters up 7-0. Then, after Treylon Payne sank two free throws, Lewis nailed consecutive triples to give the road squad a 13-2 advantage five minutes into the contest.

"We really guarded tonight," Dewey said. "Good things happen when you can defend."

Their defense was on a string, something that had been sorely lacking during the six-game slide. And on Monday, it was five guys connected, limiting the potent Grizzlies to just 37 percent shooting and 5-of-23 on 3's (22 percent).

"We knew that this wasn't going to be easy," Dewey explained. "It's not supposed to be when you're going into somebody else's house in the postseason."

As expected, Butler, which took advantage after Jones was whistled for his third foul, quickly worked their way back into the game, doing most of their damage from the free throw line. The Grizzlies used an 18-4 run, polished off by a Keyon Thomas triple and a DeeJuan Pruitt layup that put Butler up 19-17. But Garden City responded immediately. Jasman Sangha hit from in close, Osborne swished a 3 from the corner, and Lewis dropped in two free throws to give the Broncbusters a three-point edge. They pushed that to six in the final minute on Sangha's and-1 layup and led by three at the break.

"Our guys just found a way tonight," Dewey said. "Were there a few calls that didn't go our way? Absolutely. But that's something we expected. Butler earned the right to play at home, and they got those calls."

Regardless, Garden City came out ahead in more ways than one, and with Jones sitting the final 7:30 of the first half, the Broncbusters maintained the lead. Then, they worked on extending it when the freshman returned to the floor in the second half, drawing a foul while shooting a 3-pointer from the right wing. And after hitting all three free throws, Garden City was up 37-30. Later in the period, Jones added a pair of dazzling three-point plays, and Lewis knocked down another 3, giving Garden City a 51-44 edge with 10:12 to play. But like they did in the first half, the Grizzlies responded, and when Shawn Hopkins swopped in for a right-handed layup, Butler had turned a seven-point deficit into a 59-55 advantage with 6:10 to go.

"Butler is a great offensive team, and we knew they weren't going to go away," Dewey said. "But it's a credit to what our guys did on defense that helped us win this game."

Over the next three minutes, the Broncbusters locked up the Grizzlies allowing Jones and company to bring them back. Mohamed Diarra hit a bunny from the right block, Jones nailed an 18-foot step back from the left side, and Samb connected on a reverse layup to put the Broncbusters in front for good, 63-62. Osborne followed with a cold-blooded trey from the left corner, and Lewish splashed home a 28-foot bomb from the right hashmark that capped of a 7-0 run that put Garden City up by nine. They pushed it to as high 11 on Diarra's rim-rattling dunk in the final minute.

"When the ball when into Mohamed in the post, I was screaming for him to kick it out," Dewey said. "As soon as June caught it, I told him to shoot it. But I wasn't surprised it went in. I could tell he was locked in after watching him in practice the past two days."

Lewis finished 6-of-10 from the floor and hit a season-high four 3's for Garden City, which won an opening round tournament game for just the second time in the last nine years. Jones finished 13-of-13 from the line and has now made 24 straight free throws. It was the fifth time this season that he hit 10 or more in a game, making the 13 the second highest he's cashed in on. He drilled 16-of-19 on opening night vs. Cowley.

Noah Thomasson paced the Grizzlies with 18 points, and Hopkins added 12. But Butler turned the ball over 16 times leading to 20 Broncbuster points.

Garden City travelled to Great Bend on Wednesday to face Barton County in a Region VI quarterfinals contest.