By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-Barton County entered Wednesday night's showdown with Garden City as the top 3-point shooting team in the conference.
When the game went final, the Cougars left absolutely no doubt that their much-improved marksmanship from deep wasn't a mirage.
Sam Lorenzen scored 12 of his team-high 15 points in the second half, the Cougars drilled 10 3-pointers, and Barton County handed the Broncbusters their first loss of the season 77-74 at Conestoga Arena.
"Lorenzen lit us up in the second half," Garden City Coach Brady Trenkle said afterwards. "It's as simple as that."
After Russhard Cruickshank gave the Broncbusters their largest lead 46-40 seven minutes into the second half, everything changed. That's when Barton County (6-0, 2-0) found their shooting touch.
Marvin Cannon converted a second-chance opportunity, and Keshon Montague, Lorenzon and Kawanise Wilkins followed with three straight treys, spearheading a 12-2 Cougar run that put Barton County on top 55-50.
"Barton County is a really good team," Trenkle said. "That 12-2 run killed us. They just flat out hit shots in the second half."
Garden City did respond with six straight points, fueled by an Elvis Harvey stick back, and Russhard Cruickshank's triple that gave the Broncbusters their final lead of the game 56-55 with 7:22 remaining.
"These guys worked extremely hard, but we are nowhere close to where we need to be yet," Trenkle explained. "They know it, and we, as a group, need to do better."
Cannon split two free throws, Webster followed with a jumper, and Wilkins nailed a 3-pointer that put the Cougars up seven with 3:21 to go.
"Barton County looks a lot like we did last year," Trenkle said. "They're not that big, but they've got shooters."
Those shooters combined to go 7-of-11 from 3-point land in the second half while connecting on 52 percent from the field. Yet, Trenkle's team kept coming.
Kendale Hampton hit three bombs over the final three minutes, the last of which pulled Garden City to within one with less than a second to play. After Montague hit two free throws on the other end for the Cougars, the Broncbusters had one last chance to steal the game. But Pierre Johnson's inbounds pass was stolen by Webster at half court, giving Barton County their seventh win over Garden City in their last eight meetings.
"It's disappointing, but this loss isn't the end of the world," Trenkle added. "We will figure this thing out. It's early, and these guys are angry that they lost. These guys being angry shows me that they care."
In a matchup of two unbeaten teams, neither squad gained much ground over the first 20 minutes. There were seven lead changes and four ties in the opening period, with Garden City building a five-point lead on three separate occasions including a 34-29 halftime advantage.
Cruickshank scored 19 points on 5-of-8 from downtown to pace the Broncbuster. Hampton added 14 on 4-of-7 from distance, and Johnson added 12.
Montague scored 12 points for Barton County, who improved to 6-0 for the second straight season. Wilkins chipped in 11 points and six boards, and Elijah Ford scored 11.
Next up: Garden City at Cowley-Saturday, Nov. 18-5:15 p.m. pregame; 5:30 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWkR mobile app