By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-Going into Wednesday's late-season showdown, there were only four teams in the entire country that were allowing more points per game than Pratt.
Apparently numbers do not mean much in the grand scheme of things.
The Beavers played inspired defense down the stretch and used a late 13-0 run to surge past Garden City 92-84 at the Perryman Athletic Complex.
"We are not very good," Broncbusters Coach Brady Trenkle said. "It's as simple as that. We don't know how to win. Our mentality is terrible."
Garden City (15-11, 11-11) took a three-point lead when Jaymond Kelly buried a 3-pointer with 3:53 to play in the second half. The Broncbusers managed to score just twice thereafter.
"It wasn't a very good finish," Trenkle said. "I thought our effort was there, but we can't finish. I've got a newsflash for some of these guys who think they will be playing next year: bigtime programs don't want losers, and right now, we are losers."
As the Broncbusters offense eroded, Pratt (8-17, 6-16) seized control, making a beeline right for the free throw line.
Devon Andrews, who finished with a game-high 23 points, sank two freebies to pull the Beavers to within one. Moments later, Kelly had a chance to create a little separation for Garden City, but he missed two free throws. Dawson Gunter answered with two makes on the other end, and Pratt took the lead for good 81-80 with 2:29 remaining.
"It goes back to the last game-we have guys that just can't hit free throws," Trenkle said. "But there were so many other things that cost us this game."
Garden City's effort to retake control of the game failed when Naradain James missed a straight-on 3-pointer. Pratt responded when Dominique Bell grabbed an offensive rebound off Andrews' missed trey, allowing the Beavers to bleed another 25 seconds off the clock.
"Last time I checked, we were one of the best rebounding teams in the country," Trenkle said. "But the last two games, we can't get a rebound in critical situations."
Bell's board was one of only six offensive rebounds on the night for Pratt, but it was the momentum changer that Max Good's team needed.
With the shot clock winding down, Gunter drilled a 3-pointer, stretching Pratt's lead to 84-80 with 1:19 to go. The Beavers then salted the game away at the charity stripe as Bell, Gunter, Jaylon Wilson and Andrews combined to hit 8-of-9 free throws over the final 60 seconds.
"Devon Andrews may be the best player in this conference," Trenkle said.
His numbers on Wednesday proved that. He finished 8-of-14 from the floor, 7-of-9 at the line and grabbed nine rebounds in 22 minutes. Gunter netted 18 for the Beavers, who won for the third time in their last four games. Wilson and Banks each chipped in 13 and A.J. Banks tallied 12.
"We have to figure this thing out," Trenkle said. "Anybody can beat anybody in this conference. I mean Pratt should have beaten Hutchinson, and they just beat Coffeyville. It shows you how balanced this conference is."
Garden City's offensive woes could be traced back to the beginning of the game when Pratt jumped out to a 5-0 lead thanks to four straight misses from the field. The Broncbusters eventually fought their way back into the game and took their first lead when Stancil canned a triple to make it 16-14 with 11:50 to go in the first half. They built that advantage to as many as six before Pratt answered with a 12-2 run to reclaim a four-point edge. The Broncbusters did rally to take a one-point lead into the break.
There were 16 ties and 20 lead changes.
Next up: Garden City at Coffeyville-Saturday, Feb. 18-8 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app