By Mike Pilosof
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Garden City, KS-Garden City women's coach Nick Salazar saw glimpses of how good his team could be on Saturday.
Unfortunately all that was washed away with a second half to forget.
Amy O'Neil scored 11 of her game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter, Rhianna Laing added 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting, and Cowley County turned a 12-point deficit into a runaway 72-56 victory over Garden City at the Perryman Athletic Complex.
"I know I'm supposed to have all the answers," Salazar said afterwards. "But I don't. We started off so well."
But all that starts off well does not always end that way. The Broncbusters lackluster second-half performance epitomized that.
Garden City (3-3, 1-2) built a 23-11 advantage following Tionnia McKee's back-to-back buckets with 8:24 to play in the first half. But Mckee's points were a mere footnote to what was actually happening-Garden City was enjoying one of their finest shooting stretches of the Salazar era.
The Broncbusters connected on 11 of their first 13 shots while Cowley came out ice cold, throwing up a goose egg on their first five attempts. The tigers ended up shooting just 19 percent in the opening quarter. This was the same Cowley squad that had taken double-digit leads into the second quarter against their previous six opponents. They were down 10 after one.
"You couldn't have started a game better," Salazar said. "I thought our energy level was fantastic early."
But despite their poor shooting, Cowley (7-0, 3-0) stayed close. Oneil drained a 3-pointer; followed that up with a jumper and a layup, and Bridget Mimmo connected on a baseline shot in the final seconds of the half to pull the Tigers to within six.
During that same stretch, the Broncbusters mustered just one basket: a layup by DeRae Lewis with 1:24 to go.
"You have to play a complete game," Salazar explained. "We obviously didn't do that. Cowley was very good."
If those final five minutes of the first half were the opening act, the first eight minutes of the third was the show.
After Cowley fought back to tie the game at 36, Monica Barefield connected on a trey from the left wing to give the Broncbusters a 39-36 edge with 6:08 to play in the third. Garden City wouldn't score again for nearly 10 minutes.
The Tigers responded with 15 straight points, and when Mimmo knocked down a perimeter jumper at the 2:13 mark of the third, Cowley had taken a 51-39 advantage.
The onslaught was far from over.
The Tigers outscored the Broncbusters 25-7 in the third while shooting 60 percent from the field (9-of-15).
"It's very frustrating," Salazar admitted. "To play that well and to have it all fall apart. The good thing is, it's still early in conference play. We have way too many games left to worry about one loss."
Oneil proceeded to put her foot on Garden City's throat in the final period.
The sophomore sharpshooter drilled three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, one of those gave Cowley their second largest lead of the night-58-41 with 5:44 left.
"It's hard to say where our team is right now," Salazar said. "We will find out a lot about ourselves on Tuesday night."
Even in the loss, Lewis was sensational, scoring 14 of her team-best 18 points in the first half. But she managed only four shot attempts in the final 20 minutes of the game.
Barefield was the only other double-figure scorer for the Broncbusters with 18. McKee added eight, and Angel Muir had six.
Mimmo netted 13 points for the Tigers, who improved to 7-0 for the second straight season.
Notes: Garden City had 20 turnovers; it's their third straight game with 20 or more…Cowley has won seven straight games against conference opponents dating back to last season and 11 out of their last 12…The Tigers have beaten the Broncbusters seven out of the last 10 times they've played…Garden City shot just 44 percent in the second half after connecting on nearly 70 percent in the first half…Cowley's largest lead was 18 with 1:17 left in the game
Next up: Garden City at Allen-Tuesday, November 22-5:45 p.m. pregame; 6 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and mobile app: KWKR