By Mike Pilosof
Listen to the complete game in our archives section
Arkansas City, KS-Interestingly enough, Cowley entered Wednesday night's showdown with Garden City as one of the worst shooting teams in the conference.
But there's something about them playing in W.S. Scott Auditorium that brings out the best in Tommy Desalme's squad. And that's not good news for opponents.
Derieko Smith scored a game-high 19 points; Cowley shot nearly 50 percent from the floor, and the Tigers came roaring back after blowing a 10-point lead to beat the Broncbusters 84-81.
"We have to learn to put a complete game together," Broncbuster Coach Brady Trenkle said afterwards. "We were not very good in the first half, and played as well as you could in the second. This game would have been a blowout if we played the way that we are capable off during the first 20 minutes."
Despite the uneven play, Garden City (13-7, 9-7) seemingly took command of the game out of the locker room. Josh Fleming nailed two 3-pointers in the first two minutes of the second half; Victor Dukes, who was playing with the flu, put back a Fleming miss before Fleming's transition layup gave the Broncbusters their first lead since the opening minutes 45-43. The hot start to the second period completely eradicated Cowley's (12-8, 9-7) 10-point, first-half cushion.
"My guys played hard," Trenkle said. "I'm not mad at all. But we can't have the mistakes that we had tonight. I mean, 17 turnovers; you're not going to win games with live-ball turnovers."
Garden City stretched their second-half advantage to six following two free throws by Ben Howze with 14:21 to play. But Cowley had no intentions of going out quietly. Ryker Pierce drilled a trey, Brett Wright hit two from deep before Mike'l Simms long ball evened the score at 60 with 10:11 to play.
"One thing about Cowley is that they play so hard," Trenkle said. "They are one of the hardest playing teams in this league. We knew coming in that we were in for a battle."
Smith, who drained four triples in the game, knocked one down with 7:50 remaining to put the Tigers back in front 67-65. Kyreece Mills made it a three-point lead after splitting a pair of free throws.
"We needed an answer at that point," Trenkle said.
And Aaron Ray and Naradain James had it. Ray hit a jumper followed by James emphatic put-back slam that gave Garden City the lead back 69-68. Ray then scored seven straight points, and Garden City had a two-point lead with 3:01 to play.
"I felt like we had control of the game, even at that point," Trenkle said. "But apparently that wasn't the case."
Pierce's 3-pointer from the top of the key gave Cowley the lead for good with 2:43 to go. Although, Garden City had plenty of chances down the stretch to the send the game into overtime.
Trailing by five with just over a minute to play, James connected on a 25-foot trey from straight away, cutting the Tigers lead to 81-79. After Mills missed two free throws for Cowley, Ben Howze was fouled.
"We missed free throws in this game, but it only accounted for seven points," Trenkle admitted. "That wasn't the reason we lost this game."
Needing two to tie, Howze hit the first before clanging the second one off the back iron. Cedric Rembert grabbed the rebound for Cowley and was fouled with 10 seconds remaining.
"We lost this game because of the slow start," Trenkle said. "If we don't fall down by 10, we don't lose this game."
Garden City had another chance to tie after Rembert hit 1-of-2 at the stripe.
"We had a great look," Trenkle explained.
Fleming raced up court and fired a diagonal pass from the left wing to the right corner for Howze. The sophomore attacked the baseline and drew a fifth foul on Pierce with two seconds left. But Howze, who hit his first five free throws on the night, misfired on the first before Trenkle called a timeout.
"We instructed him to miss the second because we had no timeouts," Trenkle said. "And he tried to."
But his line-drive attempt rattled home. Smith sank two freebies on the other end before Jamar Gilbert's desperation 3 from half court fell a foot shy, as Cowley won their third straight contest and fifth in their last six games.
"This is always a tough environment," Trenkle added. "We learned that last year."
Howze scored 18 points and pulled down seven rebounds for the Broncbusters, who have now alternated wins since Dec. 10. Fleming added 17 points on 7-of-17 shooting; Ray splashed home 16 and James tallied 14.
Rembert netted 12 for the Tigers, who improved to 10-1 on their home floor this season. Pierce and Simms each chipped in 11 and Brian Harness, who dealt with back issues early in the season, scored 10 points.
The first half saw the lead change hands three times, all in the first 10 minutes. Cowley grabbed a 17-10 edge after Rembert drained a 3-pointer with 14:10 to play in the opening period. Garden City answered with an 8-1 run, and Howze's layup tied the game at 18 with 10:29 to go until halftime. But the Tigers had their own response, using a 21-11 spurt to take their largest lead of the night 39-29 in the final minute. They led by eight at intermission.
Next up: Garden City vs. Allen County-Saturday, January 28-8 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and mobile app: KWKR