By Mike Pilosof
North Platte, NE-Patrick Nee couldn't believe what he was seeing. His undefeated Broncbusters were getting ran off the floor on Friday night.
"We got exposed," he said after the game. "There's really no other way to put it."
The Broncbusters worked their way back from 24 down, but eventually ran out of gas.
Tim Johnson scored 26 points on 10-of-15 shooting, Courtney Murrell dished out five assists, and the Knights handed Garden City their first loss of the season 73-68 at McDonald-Belton Gymnasium.
"This was good for us," Nee said. "Our guys were kind of feeling themselves. But we needed to play a really good team and learn from it."
After scoring first on Jaleel Simmons jump shot to begin the game, North Plate (3-0) started to sizzle. Ilya Tyrtshnik nailed a 3, Murrell setup Jakub Karwowski for a powerful slam, and the Knights were off and running, using a 32-6 run that put them up 32-8 10 minutes into the game.
"We really struggled shooting tonight," Nee said. "We couldn't make a shot when we needed to."
It was just the opposite for North Platte, who couldn't miss in the early going. They connected on 11 of their first 14 shots from the field.
"They're a good team," Nee said. "But we just didn't have the right energy; all day."
Despite what appeared like an insurmountable deficit, Garden City (4-1) worked their way back into the game. Cheikh Kebe had a put-back layup, Jamir Thomas hit a midrange shot, and Jakobi Pearson splashed home back-to-back jumpers, igniting a 22-7 spurt that trimmed the deficit to nine with 3:11 to play in the half. They were down 11 at the break.
"There were really no positives to take away from this game," Nee said. "We didn't play well at all."
The Broncbusters resurgence continued in the second half. Russhard Cruickshank canned a triple and connected on an 18-footer to slice the Knights' lead to six. After Tony Hopkins split a pair of free throws, Simmons knocked down consecutive jumpers to make it a one-point contest.
"We just put ourselves in too big of a hole," Nee said.
Eventually Garden City took the lead. Pearson drained a 17-footer, and Thomas rattled the rim with an emphatic jam, giving the Broncbusters their biggest advantage of the game, 49-45 with 11:16 to go.
That's when North Platte woke up.
The Knights used a carbon copy of the first half, breaking the Broncbusters press repeatedly for easy layups and using their size advantage for second-chance opportunities. And when Johnson finished an uncontested layup at the rim, the Knights had just finished off a 25-10 run that put the home team up 70-59 with 1:13 remaining.
"We will learn from this and get better tomorrow," Nee said.
North Platte pulled away despite shooting only 38 percent in the second half. Karwowski scored 15 points on 6-of-8 from the field, and Murrell added 12.
Thomas paced Garden City with 13 points, but he was just 1-of-4 from the line. As a team, Garden City missed 11 of their 18 attempts from the stripe. Cruickshank had 12 points on 4-of-12 from downtown who were outrebounded for the first time this season (45-37). The Broncbusters shot a season-worst 45 percent from the field.
Next up: Garden City at McCook-Saturday, Nov. 17-3:45 p.m. pregame; 4 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app