Garden City, KS-If Garden City could figure out how to close games the way they start them, they would be unbeatable. Unfortunately for the Broncbusters, those glimpses of brilliance were short lived again on Wednesday night.
Shaq Athie scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half, Gabriel Gyamfi pulled down a career-best 19 rebounds, and Colby handed Garden City a 69-64 loss at the Perryman Athletic Complex.
"All the credit goes to Colby," Broncbuster Coach Brady Trenkle said afterwards. "They packed the lane with that 2-3 zone and we jacked up 23 3's. That's the difference in the game."
No disrespect to Trenkle, but the biggest difference in the game was Gyamfi, who was filling in for leading scorer Ajou Deng. And the freshman from Canada did not disappoint.
Gyamfi grabbed 12 of his 19 boards in the first half, and his knack for keeping balls alive helped Colby (7-9, 3-9) climb out of an early nine-point hole.
"Gyamfi hadn't played significant minutes, and he comes in here and grabs 19 rebounds," Trenkle said. "That can't happen."
It did, and Garden City's stagnant offense made matters even worse.
Victor Dukes layup with 5:35 to play in the first half gave Garden City (11-5, 7-5) a 24-15 lead. The Broncbusters managed only two points the rest of the period.
Caleal Walker sank two free throws, and Cole Smith drained a coldblooded trey to ignite a 7-0 run. Then, in the waning seconds of the first half, Smith struck again, nailing a triple from the top of the key to give the Trojans a 27-26 lead at halftime.
"We didn't close the first half well at all," Trenkle said. "We are so talented, but that alone won't get it done."
The first five minutes of the second half saw the lead change hands eight times. But Walker's three-point play with 14:46 to go put Colby in front for good 41-39. They built that lead to as many as nine with 2:22 remaining.
"We still had a chance," Trenkle said. "But the game should not have come down to that. Some of our guys played really hard while others did not. We will figure that out over the next couple of days."
Trailing 63-54, Garden City mounted one final comeback. Josh Fleming, who scored 10 of the first 12 points for the Broncbusters, connected on a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Then Dukes hit a couple of free throws to make it a four-point contest.
"I'll say this: we kept battling," Trenkle said.
Up three with 20 seconds left, Walker, who had hit his first five freebies of the night, missed two, leaving the door cracked for the Broncbusters. But Fleming's potential game-tying 3-pointer from the top drifted off to the left. David Hall grabbed the rebound and hit two charity shots to ice it, as Colby became the second team this season to beat Garden City on their home floor.
"Before the game, Josh told me his legs were just not there," Trenkle said. "I just don't understand why they're feeling that way."
Fleming was sensational in the first 10 minutes of the game. But he managed only three points over the final 30. Naradain James scored 14 and pulled down 10 rebounds; his third double-double for the Broncbusters, who lost for the second time in their last three games. Ben Howze added nine points and nine boards.
Chavis chipped in 15 for Colby, who won their first road game since Nov. 7. Walker added nine and Smith had eight.
Next up: Garden City vs. Seward County-Saturday, January 14-8 p.m. on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and mobile app: KWKR