By Mike Pilosof
Photos by Adam Shrimplin
Garden City, KS-Patrick Nee is still holding out hope that the team that he helped recruit, will eventually figure things out. And while they showed glimpses on Monday night, the early-season growing pains continued.
Wesley Harris notched his fifth double-double of the season with 20 points and 10 rebounds, Jacob Jackson added 11 points and 11 boards, and Otero won their eighth straight game with an 89-81 victory over Garden City at Conestoga Arena.
"Our guys are still fighting," Nee said. "We will get this thing figured out. It's not time to push the panic button yet."
The Bronbusters dropped their second straight contest and lost for the fourth time in their last five games. It's their worst start through 11 games since 2012.
"We just have to start hitting shots," Nee said. "I saw some encouraging signs tonight, but we still didn't do enough."
Garden City (6-5, 1-1) got off to an encouraging start. Cheikh Kebe hit a 3-pointer and Russhard Cruickshank got loose for layup, giving the Broncbusters a 21-16 edge with 7:52 to play in the first half. But the Rattlers responded with a 13-7 run capped by Jacob Jackson's 3-pointer that gave Otero (9-2) a 29-28 advantage.
"I felt like we played better, but we are still not there," Nee said.
Daishaun Woods, who finished with a season-best 15 points, gave the Broncbusters a 36-33 advantage with 1:37 on the clock. But as they did most of the night, Garden City lost track of AJ Youngman, who drifted to the right corner and hit a 3 to tie the game at 36.
The Broncbusters appeared revitalized in the second half, and after Otero built a four-point lead, Nee's squad answered the bell resoundingly. Kebe got free for a jam, Cruickshank and Jakobi Pearson found their way to the cup, and Garden City rattled off 10 straight points to open up their largest cushion of the night, 46-40 with 16:34 to go.
"We're going to be a good basketball team," Nee said. "We just have to salvage the second semester."
Unfortunately, Garden City couldn't salvage their last non-conference contest before Christmas break. Once the Broncbusters took their last lead on RJ Pair's buzzer-beating triple from the top of the key, the Rattlers used a 17-5 surge that was spearheaded by (Wesley) Harris's powerful one-handed jam that made it 77-67 with 2:55 remaining.
"Otero's a really good team," Nee said. "Unfortunately, we haven't had any help with the schedule."
Garden City had a couple of chances to make things interesting down the stretch. Traylyn Spencer hit a turnaround in the lane that cut the deficit to five with 1:59 remaining. He then stole the ensuing inbounds pass and headed back to the basket. But Sam Mack was waiting for him, drawing a charge that gave the ball back to Otero.
Another chance presented itself when Gibson split a pair of free throws and Cruickshank hit a 3 that cut it to four with 46 seconds to play. But as Woods went for a steal, he was called for a foul on Jackson. The freshman from Sacramento, CA hit both free throws, and Garden City was down six.
Gibson scored 17 points and dished out four assists for Otero, who beat Garden City for the first time since 2013. Youngman tallied 11 on 3-of-7 from downtown.
Cruickshank totaled 21 for Garden City, who dropped to 4-4 at home. Pearson scored eight of his 10 in the second half, and Kebe chipped in nine.
Next up: Garden City at Cowley-Saturday, Dec. 8-7:30 p.m. on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app