By Mike Pilosof
Great Bend, KS-Give Patrick Nee's team a lot of credit. After producing only three points in the final nine minutes of Wednesday's home loss vs. Colby, Garden City responded from a couple of early blows Saturday from perennial-power Barton County. But in the end, the Broncbusters ran out of gas.
Leondre Washington hit four 3's and finished with 19 points, Elijah Ford added 18 and 10 boards, and the Cougars finished off Garden City 84-77 at the Kirkman Center.
"We played well enough to win the game," Broncbuster Coach Patrick Nee said. "We keep taking steps in the right direction."
Unlike in recent games, Garden City got off to a slow start. Diovonte Caldwell's layup gave the Cougars a 21-11 lead with 11:39 to go in the first half. But the momentum slowly started to shift once Russhard Cruickshank buried a 3 from the top of the key. RJ Pair nailed back-to-back long balls, and Jamir Thomas hit a midrange jumper followed by a tip in, giving Garden City had a 24-23 advantage with 8:29 left in the half. They stretched that to as many four after Jakobi Pearson swished a triple. They were up 41-38 at the break, holding the Cougars scoreless the final two minutes of the frame.
"Our defense got after it in stretches," Nee said. "It gave us a chance."
Akeem White put Barton County back on top with a layup two minutes into the second half. 30 seconds later, White nailed a jumper, Caldwell tipped in Washington's missed 3-pointer, and the Cougars were up 58-51 with 15 minutes to go.
From there, Garden City regained control. The Broncbusters answered with a 21-7 blitz, capped by Thomas's 3-pointer that gave Nee's team their largest lead of the night, 72-65 with 7:16 on the clock.
"I give a lot of credit to our guys for continuing to fight in this one," Nee said.
Barton County quickly went on the offensive. Washington hit a backbreaking 3 over Cruickshank, and Anthony Atkinson's thunderous slam put the Cougars up for good with 2:58 remaining. This all coincided with Garden City going scoreless the final 2:58. They went the final 5:45 without a field goal.
Caldwell scored 13 points in 23 minutes off the bench for Barton County. White chipped in 11 on 5-of-10 shooting.
Thomas poured in 24 points and pulled down nine rebounds for Garden City, who dropped their second straight game. Pearson scored 17, and Pair tallied 13 off the bench.
Next up: Garden City at Seward County-Wednesday, Feb. 6-7:30 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app