By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-Russhard Cruickshank's first-half shrug said it all.
The freshman guard had just knocked down his fourth trey of the opening period when he turned to his bench, grinning from ear to ear, similar to Michael Jordan's six 3-pointer expose vs. Portland in the 1992 NBA Finals when he looked over at Marv Albert and Magic Johnson in disbelief.
That was just part of the story on a day where Garden City put on one of the most impressive shooting exhibitions in Jayhawk Conference history. In the process, they broke through a barrier that had stood for nearly a decade.
Cruickshank finished 5-of-7 from deep, finishing with 17 points, Kendale Hampton and Elvis Harvey added four triples a piece, and Garden City broke the school record by hitting 17 treys in a 99-53 rout of Colby Saturday afternoon at Conestoga Arena. The 3-point assault broke the old mark of 16 3s dropped on Seward County on Feb. 23, 2009.
"To be honest, I was way more impressed with our defense," Head Coach Brady Trenkle said afterwards. "I know that we can shoot it."
And man did his team prove exactly that to begin the game.
After Colby (18-11, 14-11) scored the first points of the contest on Xavier Smith's foul-line jumper, Hampton answered with a bucket on the other end. What ensued was an avalanche of epic proportions.
Cruickshank drilled two 3's, Hampton added one; sprinkled in with a Jamir Thomas reverse layup and Jeff Otchere's two free throws that fueled a 19-0 run that put Garden City (18-11, 14-11) in front 19-2 six minutes into the game.
"Everything that we did was sparked by our defense," Trenkle said. "That's two games in a row that they've been on top of it."
David Hall split of a pair of free throws to end the Trojans' six-minute scoring drought, but the relief didn't last long. Cruickshank hit his third 3 of the first half before the infamous shrug once he drilled his fourth to put the Broncbusters up 41-14 with 5:31 remaining until halftime.
"Our offense executed very nicely today," Trenkle said. "We had guys knowing when to kick it out. There was always a paint touch against the zone."
And it was only fitting that the first half ended the way it started, with a trey from Theo Holloway that gave Garden City a 52-20 lead at the intermission. Garden City's first-half stat line: 52 points on 55 percent shooting and 10-of-16 from long range.
"We know how good of a team we can be," Trenkle said. "These guys have some big goals, and this is just one game."
Harvey drained two 3's in the first 90 seconds of the final stanza, Cruickshank added his fifth, stretching the lead to 37. It grew as high as 49 in the second half when reserve center Lacolby Tucker dropped in a right-handed hook in the paint, giving Garden City a 97-48 edge with 2:25 to play.
"I know I sound repetitive, but just get us to Wichita; that's what I keep telling our guys," Trenkle said. "Anything can happen there."
As sensational as their offense was on Saturday, Garden City's defense set the tone. They forced Colby to miss seven of their first eight shots. In the end, the Trojans endured their second lowest field goal percentage of the season, going 17-of-54 (31 percent).
"We took away everything that they wanted to do," Trenkle said. "That was the impressive thing that we did today."
The Broncbusters had six in double figures, paced by Pierre Johnson's 15 points and nine assists in 29 minutes. Hampton added 16, Thomas had 11 and eight rebounds, and Holloway chipped in 11 off the bench, his first double-figure scoring game since Jan. 20.
Smith and Christian Carmichael scored eight points apiece for Colby, who lost by double digits for the second straight game.
Next up: Garden City vs. Seward County-Monday, Feb. 26-8 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app