By Mike Pilosof
Dodge City, KS-Brady Trenkle will never say it publicly, but there's always something extra on the line facing Dodge City.
On Wednesday night, despite having to sweat it out late, the fifth-year coach handed his former employer a gut-wrenching setback.
Theo Holloway recorded his first double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds, Kendale Hampton also scored 15, and Garden City held off Dodge City in the final seconds to earn a hard-fought 66-64 victory over the Conquistadors at the Student Activities Center.
"This is a tough place to play," Trenkle said after the game. "Dodge City put up a heck of a fight."
Garden City (8-2, 4-2) won the game despite shooting a season-low 39 percent from the floor. They were just 3-of-11 from deep, their second fewest 3-pointers made in a game this year.
"You want to talk about playing hard-that's a really good Dodge City team," Trenkle said. "They play so well together. We definitely got their A-plus hit tonight."
Dodge City (5-4, 3-3) was sharp early on, scoring 10 of the game's first 13 points while the crowd erupted following Lazarus Williams' 3-pointer that made it 10-3 six minutes into the contest.
"We had not seen them play that well yet," Trenkle said. "But that's the thing with this league, and while Dodge City may not be as talented as some of the other teams in the region, they are extremely well coached."
The Broncbusters weathered the early storm, and Octavious Meadows' layup, followed by Holloway's steal and dish to Russhard Cruickshank and Hampton's 3-pointer, spearheaded a 7-0 run that tied the game at 10. Garden City then took their first lead on Meadows' driving layup that put the Broncbusters up 16-14 with 7:06 remaining in the half.
"Even with some of the things that went wrong in this game, at the end of the day, we have to remember that we won," Trenkle said.
The game went back and forth for the majority of the opening period, with Tajae Anderson's triple putting Dodge City back in front 24-21 with 4:09 left. But two free throws by Holloway coupled with a midrange jumper; a layup and Hampton's scoop and score had the Broncbusters up 29-28 at the half.
The first half featured six ties and three lead changes. Trenkle wasn't surprised.
"There are a lot of things that we still have to learn," Trenkle said. "But that's the beauty of this schedule. We've got plenty more games to get this thing right."
The game stayed close in the second half with the Broncbusters building a five-point edge four minutes into the stanza only to have Bruce Hodges split a pair of free throws; then hit a layup followed by Jyrus Freels' drive to the rim that tied the score at 37.
"We could never really pull away from them," Trenkle said. "And they kept the score down."
Garden City built their biggest lead of the night when Jeff Otchere rattled the rim with a breathtaking slam with 2:08 remaining that gave the Broncbusters a 64-57 edge. But as they did most of the night, the Conquistadors struck back, pulling to within three on Hodges made free throw with nine seconds left. Then, with Broncbusters up four, Cruickshank made a costly error, fouling Hodges shooting a 3-pointer.
"We have to learn on the go here, like you can't foul that guy in that situation," Trenkle explained.
Hodges hit the first, missed the second before first-year Head Coach Steve Tucker called a timeout. When play resumed, Hodges tried to intentionally miss the freebie only to see it splash through net, cutting Garden City's lead to 66-64 with two seconds left. But even with Otchere missing two from the stripe on the other end, Doge City was out of timeouts, and Anderson's three-quarters court heave fell well short, giving the Broncbusters their first win over the Conquistadors since Jan. 20, 2016.
"We can hold our heads up because our guys played well for the most part," Trenkle said. "Now it's onto the next one."
Meadows finished with 11 points for the Broncbusters, who won their third straight game. Jamir Thomas chipped in seven points and eight boards, and Pierre Johnson had six and four dimes in 35 minutes.
Hodges paced the Conquistadors with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Tamajae Blackwell had 11, but as a team, Dodge City was just 6-of-25 from downtown (24 percent).
Next up: Garden City vs. Hutchinson-Saturday, Dec. 2-8 p.m. on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app