By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-At one point this season, Garden City was nearly unbeatable at home.
But after Thursday night, that once insurmountable home-court advantage was a distant memory.
Shawntez Scroggins scored 15 of his game-high 23 points in the second half, Tate Turner netted 20, and Independence ended the Broncbusters season with an 82-69 victory at Conestoga Arena. With the win, the Pirates advanced to play top-seeded Hutchinson in Sunday's Region VI quarterfinal at Hartman Arena.
"I said it after the Seward game: if we don't hit shots we won't win," Trenkle said.
As simple as that statement was, it rang so true, and Garden City picked the worst night to have one of its worst shooting games of the season.
The Broncbsuters shot 39 percent from the field and 4-of-17 from 3 (24 percent). But their biggest problem was free throws; Garden City missed 13 of their 30 attempts.
"We lost something after that last meeting with Independence," Trenkle said. "We just couldn't hit shots the second half of the season, and that includes free throws."
Despite missing seven of their first 10 shots from the field on Thursday, Garden City (16-15, 12-14) still managed to build a nine-point lead. Jamar Gilbert and Jaymond Kelly knocked down 3-pointers, and the Broncbusters were up 14-5 with 12:57 to play in the first half.
"It's been the story all year," Trenkle said. "These guys get up and they lose their energy."
Independence (14-16, 10-16) came into their postseason opener as one of the worst shooting teams in the conference. But the final stat line on Thursday told a much different story.
After missing on four of their first five shots and turning it over seven times in the first eight minutes, the Pirates found their groove, connecting on 23-of-45 (51 percent) the rest of the way including 11-of-21 in the second half.
"How many times has that happened now where the other team shoots like that?" Trenkle asked. "But hats off to them-they hit contested shots, and we didn't."
One of those challenged jumpers gave the Pirates their first lead when Scroggins drilled an 18-footer from the top of the key over Naradain James for a 25-23 edge. Independence never trailed again.
That jumper was part of a 13-0 run where the Broncbusters watched their seven-point lead turn into a six-point deficit. They stretched it to seven after Jaelin Grant's put-back slam at the buzzer, and Independence had a 38-31 advantage at the break.
"These things happen," Trenkle explained. "But it's frustrating knowing how talented this group was. But I'm proud of them. I'm proud of what they did this year."
Whatever hope Garden City was clinging to before the half, Independence, more specifically, Scroggins crushed over the final 20 minutes.
The former Topeka Player of the Year, who had only hit five 3's all season, nailed three of them in the second half. The last of those was part of a 12-2 run that put the Pirates up 15 with 11:15 to go. They eventually built their cushion to as many as 17.
"I've said it all along that Tony Turner is one of the best coaches in this league," Trenkle said.
And he proved that on Thursday, winning a playoff game on the road despite his leading scorer DaJon Streater remaining a spectator for the entire contest.
James scored 14 points for Garden City, who closed the season by dropping eight out of their final nine games. Josh Fleming, who was 0-for-8 from the floor on Monday night, was just 2-of-12 with 11 points. Aaron Ray added 10.
Michael Carson totaled 12 points for Independence, who won their first postseason game in three years. Tyrone Riley, who did not play in the first half, scored seven points.