By Mike Pilosof
Arkansas City, KS-Playing shorthanded for the second straight game didn't appear to affect Patrick Nee's team; until the final few minutes.
Keyon Duling scored 29 points on 8-of-12 from downtown, and Cowley outscored Garden City 47-34 in the second half to beat the Broncbusters 85-74 Saturday night at William Scott Auditorium.
"I felt like we played really well in the first half," Nee said afterwards. "We are just having those little three-minute lulls that are hurting us."
Over the first 20 minutes, Nee got a glimpse of the potential from his team, going toe-to-toe with one of the most talented squads in the Jayhawk.
There were 11 lead changes and six ties over the first 20 minutes with the Broncbusters building a 9-5 edge following Cheikh Kebe's 3-pointer from the left wing with 16:40 remaining. But Cowley (10-4, 2-2) answered with a 7-0 surge that saw Duling drill a three, Davonte Pack hit two free throws and Cole Kinnamon swish a floater that put the Tigers up 20-15 halfway through the period.
"We see as a team that when things go wrong, we are dropping our heads a little bit," Nee said. "
That didn't happen in the first half, and the Broncbusters closed the first stanza strong, getting back-to-back baskets by reserve Stuart Wasonga before Elijah Kelly's jumper gave Garden City (6-7, 1-2) a 41-38 halftime advantage.
"I feel like if you do the right things and keep working, things will eventually go your way," Nee said.
The Broncbusters survived Duling's first-half onslaught and still had the lead despite the freshman draining five triples. But the second half was a different story.
With the game tied at 60, Duling hit from deep again. Then, with the Broncbusters pressing up on the perimeter, Brendan Van Dyke got free for a powerful slam that polished off a 12-4 run that had the Tigers up eight.
"We were in this one for most of the game," Nee said. "We just have to stop hurting ourselves."
The backbreaker though came with less than five minutes to go. With the shot clock winding down, Kinnamon, who once hit a half-court buzzer beater in the sixth overtime of a state tournament game at St. John two years ago, drilled a fallaway 3 from the left hashmark just as the timer expired to give Cowley a 75-66 advantage.
"I mean that's our season in a nutshell right there," Nee explained. "Kinnamon falls into the coach's lap and still hits the shot."
With the engine running on fumes, Garden City got back to within four on Russhard Cruickshank's deep ball with 2:41 remaining. But that was the Broncbusters last field goal as the Tigers put the game away with a 7-0 run fueled by Julius Nwosu's two-handed jam.
Duling finished the night 9-of-14 from the floor while pulling down eight rebounds for the Tigers, who have not lost to Garden City at home since 2011. Kinnamon added 18, six rebounds and five assists.
Next up: Garden City at Coffeyville-Wednesday, Dec. 12-7:30 p.m. on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app