By Mike Pilosof
El Dorado, KS-Brady Trenkle's game philosophy has always been play defense first; worry about offense later.
On Saturday night, his team followed that lead, suffocating Butler in their conference opener.
Russhard Cruickshank scored a season-high 22 points in 38 minutes, the Broncbuster defense held Butler to just 28 percent shooting, and Garden City blasted the Grizzlies 75-59 at the Power Plant. It was Trenkle's 150th career coaching victory.
"When we play defense, it sets everything else up," he said. "That's what we did tonight."
It also helped that Cruickshank had his best game to this point.
The freshman drilled two 3-pointers in the first five minutes of the contest, the second one fueled a 12-0 run that turned a one-point deficit into an 18-7 Garden City lead with 12:13 left in the first half. He hit five treys over the first 20 minutes, and the Broncbusters never looked back.
"I knew he (Cruickshank) could shoot; I didn't think he would hit that many 3's in the first half," Trenkle said. "But all of these guys have that in them."
Cruickshank was 5-of-7 from deep in the first half, Jamir Thomas converted a sensational 3-point play, and Garden City built a 17-point advantage with 3:00 to play until halftime. They were in front 39-24 going into the locker room.
"When he (Cruickshank) is on, he's on," Trenkle said. "Kendale Hampton was awesome off the bench."
Hampton was solid, scoring 10 of his 13 in the first half on 4-of-7 from the field. He was one of three Broncbusters in double figures.
"We shot the ball pretty well for most of the game," Trenkle said. "We'll take it."
Leading by 15 in the second half, Butler made a couple of pushes to get back into the game. Antferne Adams put home a three-point play; then hit a jump shot that was followed by a Karlon McSpadden free throw that cut the Broncbuster lead to nine points and forced Trenkle to call a timeout.
"You can't coach effort, and these guys gave me tremendous effort tonight," Trenkle said.
Hampton hit a much needed jumper out of the timeout for Garden City, Pierre Johnson splashed home a 12-footer, and the Broncbusters were back up by double digits.
"I don't know how good we will be at the end of the day, but I know the effort is there," Trenkle said.
The Grizzlies cut it to single digits once more following two free throws by Russell Smith, but Garden City responded with a 13-5 run that put them up 17 with 10:13 to go.
"I keep saying it that this is the most fun team I've coached in 18 years," Trenkle said.
Johnson, the transfer from Seward, scored 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Thomas grabbed a team-high nine rebounds while the Broncbusters swatted six shots and outscored the Grizzlies 22-16 in the paint.
McSpadden, Adrian Moore and Adams all scored 11 for Butler, who watched their three-game winning streak snapped.
Next up: Garden City vs. Barton County-Wednesday, Nov. 15-8 p.m. on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app