By Mike Pilosof
Coffeyville, KS-When Jay Herkelman constructed his team during the offseason, he envisioned one that had interchangeable parts. Through 13 games, the winningest coach in Jayhawk Conference history is seeing his vision come to light. And for the rest of the league, look out.
Marvin Johnson scored 18 points, Eastern Oklahoma State transfer Tevin Brewer added 17, and No. 3 Coffeyville shot a season-high 62 percent from the field, propelling them to a 92-71 victory over Garden City Wednesday night at Nellis Hall. It was the Red Ravens 15th consecutive home win.
"They are so hard to guard," Broncbuster Coach Patrick Nee said afterwards. "They're hard to stay in front of."
Steve Eck at Hutchinson has seen plenty of talent come through the Sports Arena over the years. But even he would be jealous of the roster that Herkelman put together; one that consists of long-distance shooters, wing defenders, and a post player in Keon Queen, that dominated the interior on both ends of the floor. In the end, the Red Ravens proficient shooting; coupled with their defense (they forced Garden City into a season-high 19 turnovers), was too much to overcome.
"It's the same thing every game right now," Nee explained. "We go through a few minutes of adversity, and we don't know how to respond."
Early on, his team did, and after Coffeyville (12-1, 5-0) jumped out to a 20-7 first-half lead, Garden City (6-7, 1-3) struck back with their own right cross. Cheikh Kebe nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing, Jakobi Pearson hit two free throws, and Russhard Cruickshank buried a triple over Brewer from the left wing that brought the Broncbusters to within two, 30-28 with 6:05 remaining in the period.
"We shot the ball really well tonight," Nee said. "But I think, just like the Cowley game, we ran out of gas."
After Garden City made it a one-possession game, Coffeyville answered with a 7-2 spurt, fueled by Johnson's pullup 3-pointer. Manny Crump added a steal and slam, and the Red Ravens had a 46-38 halftime advantage.
"I like my team," Nee said. "I like the way we scratched and clawed through the whole game."
Things didn't get much easier in the second half. After Garden City trimmed Coffeyville's 14-point lead down to eight, the Red Ravens went for the throat. Crump hit a driving hook, Miekkel Murray slashed to the rim, Quawn Marshall added a pullup, and Queen had an offensive rebound and put back that grew the lead to 16.
"This may be the best team Coffeyville has had; I don't remember them having this many guys that can shoot the ball," Nee said.
One of those pure shooters was Johnson, who broke Garden City's back with eight minutes to go when he crossed over Pearson, drove to his left, and hit a fallaway jumper from the baseline while Pearson fouled him. He added the free throw to put the lead at 13. That was the beginning of the end once the Red Ravens ripped off 14 straight points to open up a 24-point lead with 2:46 left.
"Hopefully, we get some guys back for the second semester after the break that are ready to go," Nee said. "Coffeyville is the best team in the region, but I feel we can be there when March comes around."
Crump scored 12 points for the Red Ravens, who beat Garden City for the 10th time in their last 12 meetings. Queen chipped in 11 and six rebounds in 15 minutes.
"That team is so deep," Nee said. "They can go five in and five out all night."
Pearson and Cruickshank each scored 14 to lead Garden City, who suffered their fourth straight loss (first time that's happened since 2016). Traylynn Spencer scored 13, and RJ Pair hit three 3's off the bench and tallied a season-high 11.
Next up: Garden City vs. Independence, Saturday, January 5-4 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app