By Mike Pilosof
Liberal, KS-When the dust finally settled on the 2016-2017 regular season, the Garden City men were left wondering what could have been.
Charles Beauregard scored a game-high 33 points, his team hit 33-of-44 free throws, and despite dressing only seven guys, Seward County beat the Broncbusters 77-68 Wednesday night at the Greenhouse.
With the loss, Garden City drew the No. 8 seed in the opening round of the Region VI tournament and will host Independence on Thursday. The Saints are the 15 seed and will travel to Barton County.
"I don't know what it is, but every time we come in this building, one of their guys shoots more free throws than our entire team," Trenkle said. "I can name the guys. Last year it was Niem Stevenson and the year before that it was Kevin Sims. I don't know what to say."
Beuregard shot 21 freebies to Garden City's 26. Still, the eye-opening aspect of this game was this: the Saints won with only a two-man rotation off the bench, and they did it without Sims, the conference's leading scorer. They also had three starters log 37 minutes or more.
"We lost to seven guys," Trenkle said. "Give them credit. My guys played hard, but we made more silly mistakes tonight."
The game seemed to be a runaway at the start. Aaron Ray hit a 3-pointer and an elbow jumper followed by Troy Stancil's reverse layup as Garden City (16-14, 12-14) built a 7-0 lead. During the first 3:30, Seward County (9-21, 6-20) missed their first seven shots. Head Coach Bryan Zollinger had seen enough and called a timeout.
The stoppage in play allowed the Saints to regroup, nailing their next three shots from the field and eventually taking their first lead when Beauregard sank two free throws with 8:24 to go in the half. Seward stretched that advantage to five when Tre Kidd, who had missed the previous three games because of suspension, converted a dunk off a back screen to make it 22-17 with 4:47 to play in the opening period.
"They're a better team without Sims," Trenkle said. "They moved the ball better without him."
Down five, the Broncbusters answered with their own run. Naradain James hit a jumper and a slam, Jefkins Agyeman-Budu splashed home four free throws, and Garden City scored 10 unanswered to take a five-point edge 27-22. But they did not score the final 2:11 of the first half while the Saints countered by netting the final six points including Pierre Johnson's buzzer-beating layup that gave Seward County a 28-27 lead at the half.
"If we can't shoot, we won't win Thursday," Trenkle said. "It doesn't matter where we play."
The second half was even more of a headscratcher for the fourth-year coach.
After building a 45-41 lead following Ray's 3-pointer from the right wing with 12:08 to play, Garden City went silent, literally. The Broncbusters went the next 11 minutes without a field goal. During that same stretch, Garden City mustered just 10 points while Seward County stormed back to take the lead. They eventually built it to as many as 13 once Beauregard hit two free throws following Trenkle's technical foul with 1:13 remaining. Garden City got no closer than seven the rest of the way.
"It's disappointing to lose a game like this," Trenkle said. "But it is what it is."
Garden City watched as another team shot lights out in the second half. Seward County was 12-of-20 (60 percent) from the field over the final 20 minutes. Meantime the Broncbusters shot a season worst 32 percent.
Ray scored a team-best 19 points for Garden City, who played without center Ben Howze for the second straight game. His status remains up in the air. Josh Fleming, who scored 28 in the Broncbusters win over Colby on Saturday, tallied just two points and was 0-for-8 from the field.
Johnson and Martavious Wilson each scored 10 for Seward County, who snapped a four-game losing streak.
Next up: Garden City vs. Independence-Thursday, Mar. 2-7 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app