By Mike Pilosof
Concordia, KS-There were never any doubts that Jamir Thomas could score. After all, he posted more than a 1,000 points during his career at Passaic High School in New Jersey. It was his defense that needed to improve.
On Wednesday night on the road, Thomas flashed the entire repertoire on both ends of the floor. And it was breathtaking to watch at times.
Thomas scored 16 points, pulled down seven rebounds and swatted four shots, Pierre Johnson tallied a career-best 20 points, and Garden City beat Cloud County 77-67 at Arley Bryant Gymnasium.
"We are still working with Jamir on a few things," Broncbusters Coach Brady Trenkle said. "His offense was really good all night, and his defense got better in the second half."
The combination of Thomas and Johnson was definitely lethal, as the two combined to go 13-of-20 from the field. Johnson added a season-high three 3's, and the Broncbusters never trailed in the game.
"I like all the people that said that Pierre couldn't shoot," Trenkle said. "You know who you are. But he's such a good player, and such a good leader."
But it was Thomas that got Garden City (9-3, 5-3) going early on, scoring the Broncbusters' first eight points as the brown and gold built an 8-2 advantage. When Cloud County (3-8, 1-7) fought back to make it a one-point contest with 5:24 left in the period, it was Johnson that kept the Thunderbirds at arm's length. The transfer from Seward County scored seven straight points including a step back 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:35 to go that put Garden City up six. The Broncbusters led by three at the break.
"I'm so glad that he (Johnson) is on our side this year," Trenkle said. "We value his leadership."
With the game still teetering in the second half once Cloud County trimmed the Broncbusters nine-point advantage to four on the back of JaVary Christmas's trey from the top of the key with 7:31 on the clock, Thomas and Johnson would put the finishing touches on Garden City's fourth road-win of the season.
On one end it was Jeff Otchere blocking Alvin Thompson's layup attempt at the rim; on the other, it was Johnson setting up a trailing Thomas for a tomahawk slam that put Garden City up eight. Moments later, Johnson exploded by Jerome Kidd Jr. and scored with a left-handed layup to push the lead to 10. Then Thomas added a free throw, Kendale Hampton completed a three-point play, Johnson finished off his own and-1, and Thomas threw down his second dunk of the second half as the lead swelled to 16 with 1:27 remaining.
"This is a really good road win against a young, athletic team like Cloud County," Trenkle said. "Jordan (Altman) is doing a really good job here."
Of course Altman knows the Broncbusters all too well, serving as Trenkle's assistant the past two years.
"They (Cloud County) already beat Hutchinson when they were No. 1 this year," Trenkle added.
Garden City owned the paint on this night, outscoring the Thunderbirds 44-28 in the lane. Their second unit was big as well, holding a 26-18 edge, and Trenkle's bunch won the battle on the glass against the conference's fifth-best rebounding team 43-42.
Elvis Harvey added 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting for Garden City, who won in Concordia for the first time since 2016. Hampton scored 15 points off the bench on 4-of-7 from the field and Otchere tallied seven points and four blocks.
Ramion Burt paced the Thunderbirds with 16 points, nine rebounds and four steals. Christmas added 16 off the bench, and Thompson scored 12.
Next up: Garden City vs. Pratt-Saturday, Dec. 9-5:45 p.m. pregame; 6 p.m. tip on 98.1 FM; westernkansasnews.com/z98 and KSKZ mobile app