By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-Following Wednesday night's loss at home to Colby, Garden City Coach Brady Trenkle made a prediction.
"My guys probably won't like me very much over the next couple of days," he said. "But we've got too much talent on this team to lose games the way we just did."
On Saturday, although there were a few anxious moments, Trenkle's team responded the only way they knew how.
Victor Dukes recorded his eighth double-double of the season with 19 points and 10 rebounds, Ben Howze scored 18 points in just 18 minutes, and Garden City got back on the winning track with a 90-81 victory over Seward County at the Perryman Athletic Complex.
"I'm proud of how these guys responded," Trenkle said. "That was a tough loss on Wednesday. But there are no easy games in this conference."
If anything, Saturday proved as much.
The Broncbusters steamrolled Seward County out of the gates, building a commanding 43-23 lead with 4:27 left in the first half following Jaymond Kelly's corner 3. But the Saints never folded and closed the period on an 18-9 run to trim the gap to nine at the break.
"Any team coached by Bryan Zollinger isn't going away," Trenkle added. "They played extremely hard. And give them credit-they battled all the way to the end."
Seward County (6-11, 3-10) kept chipping away in the second half, pulling to within six following Micha Littlejohn's three-point play four minutes into the period. But Dukes, as he did all afternoon, had his own answer, drilling a trey from the left wing to stretch the lead back to 10.
"We made baskets when we had to, and I think this was our best defensive game of the season," Trenkle said. "We played well on that end of the floor."
That was definitely the case, but a quick whistle had the Saints on the foul line 41 times. It singlehandedly kept them afloat.
"That whistle was blowing today," Trenkle admitted. "But give our guys credit; they overcame it."
Three times in the second half, the Saints cut the Broncbuster lead to six. With 1:33 to play, Littlejohn split a pair of free throws, making it a four-point game.
"They gave us a fight, but we responded in the end," Trenkle explained.
Littlejohn's free throw was the last points of the day for the Saints. Naradain James drilled a jumper at the shot-clock buzzer, Jamar Gilbert hit two free throws before Howze split a pair of freebies, as Garden City (12-5, 8-5) closed the contest on a 5-0 spurt to grab their ninth home win of the season.
Aaron Ray who struggled from the field for the second straight game, scored 10 points and was 5-of-6 from the line. But his biggest contribution came on defense in the closing minutes.
With a chance to make it a one-possession game late, Zollinger put the ball in Sims' hands. The conference's leading scorer went left around a high-ball screen. But instead of going over the top of it, Ray, who will be teammates next season with Sims at Portland State, slid perfectly underneath the pick; moving step for step with Sims. As the sophomore guard pushed his way into the lane, Ray retreated, inducing a travel call that changed the game.
"That may have been the best defensive possession of Ray's career," Trenkle said. "He played it perfectly."
Gilbert added nine points and five rebounds while Jefkins Agyeman-Budu chipped in eight points off the bench.
Sims came off the bench to lead the Saints with 28 points on 7-of-14 shooting. It was his ninth 20-point game of the season. Malik Brown added 15; Littlejohn had 14 and Charles Beauregard tallied 10.
"This schedule doesn't get any easier," Trenkle said. "Our guys really bought in, and that gives me a lot of confidence going forward."
That confidence appeared shaken to start the game as the Broncbusters missed on 10 of their first 11 shots from the field. But Howze's thunderous dunk and layup, followed by Josh Fleming's 3-pointer and Dukes own personal 6-0 run, had Garden City up 25-17 with 8:55 to play in the first half. A 7-0 run later in the half eventually stretched that advantage to 20.
Next up: Garden City at Butler-Wednesday, January 18-7:30 p.m. on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and the KWKR mobile app