By Mike Pilosof
Photos by Adam Shrimplin
Garden City, KS-Garden City Head Coach Patrick Nee promised that fans would see something different this year.
With his dad, longtime collegiate coach Danny Nee sitting in the stands, the first-year head man delivered on his promise, using a multitude of defenses on opening night to completely throw Redlands off their game.
A half-court trap; coupled with a rotating 2-3 zone forced the Cougars into 20 turnovers, Jamir Thomas added 20 points and 12 rebounds, and the Broncbusters blew past Redlands 98-78 Friday night at Conestoga Arena.
"That was a really difficult matchup for us with their five guards," Nee said after the game. "But I think our zone was the difference."
That zone was a major factor in the Cougars coughing it up 15 times over the final 20 minutes, as Garden City turned a tie game at into a runaway by outscoring Redlands (0-1) 53-33 in the second half.
"I know we won this game going away, but I don't think we played very well," Nee said. "The turnovers, the one-handed passes; those were frustrating."
Still, Garden City shot 58 percent from the field despite misfiring on 13 of their 17 3-point attempts. And they battered the smaller Cougars inside, outscoring them 46-26 in the paint and outrebounding them 37-26.
"The good thing is, everything that we did wrong in this game is something that we can get better at," Nee said. "This was just the first test."
With the score knotted at 45 to start the second half, the Broncbusters came out running. Traylynn Spener made a pair of driving layups before Russhard Cruickshank got free for a wing jumper. That inside-out game freed up the middle, where Thomas sent the home crowd into a frenzy with a powerful slam that stretched the lead to six. The advantage eventually swelled to double digits when Jaleel Simmons found Daishaun Woods for a straight-on 3-pointer that gave Garden City (1-0) a 69-58 edge with 10:46 to play. That lead never dropped lower than 10 the rest of the way.
Thomas polished off his efficient night, going 6-of-7 from the field while adding four assists a steal and a block. He did turn the ball over five times. Simmons added 18, Jakobi Pearson had 17 and Tony Hopkins dropped in 12 as four of the five Broncbusters starters reached double figures.
Redlands was led by AJ McNeil, who finished with 25 points on 8-of-18 from the floor. Kenny Springs tallied 18.
"I like how we got out in transition tonight," Nee said. "I didn't like that we didn't get the ball inside as much as we wanted to."
Next up: Garden City vs. On Point Academy-Monday, Nov. 5-7:15 p.m. pregame; 7:30 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app