Garden City, KS-Before the start of the season, Garden City Coach Nick Salazar professed that Monica Barefield could be one of the best players to ever come through the program.
"She has a chance to be really special," he said.
Saturday, she singlehandedly kept the Broncbusters in it before ultimately falling to Neosho in overtime. On Wednesday, the freshman guard once again did her best to live up to her coach's expectations.
Barefield returned from an injury scare right before the half to score 10 of her game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter, as Garden City surged back to beat Colby 59-45 at the Perryman Athletic Complex.
"Monica has that ability," Salazar said after the game. "So I'm not surprised at how she played when we needed her."
And don't be mistaken: Garden City (7-9, 5-7) needed their star guard down the stretch.
After building a 10-point lead early on, Barefield sat out the third quarter while the trainers worked on her. She was hurt after getting clipped by Aubre Johnson on a screen in the final seconds of the second quarter. The Trojans took full advantage.
Colby (3-13, 1-11) outscored Garden City 14-10 in the third and pulled to within two when Journey Jones drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer. At the start of the fourth, Jones connected on another trey, this one gave Colby their first lead since the first quarter.
"The tale of the tape is this: when we had to make plays, we made them," Salazar said. "The fourth quarter was the epitome of how this team can play."
Trailing 41-40 with 9:39 to go, the Broncbusters took over the game; more specifically, Barefield did.
Once Kavita Akula gave Garden City the lead back with a 3-pointer at the 9:00 mark, it was Barefield converting back-to-back buckets to stretch the advantage to six. Then she finished off a 19-4 spurt with a pair of triples that finally finished off the pesky Trojans.
"We just needed a win to get us going," Salazar said. "We have talent. We just have to utilize it."
DeRae Lewis, who helped stretch the lead with three straight baskets in the fourth period, finished with 11 points and 15 rebounds. It was her third double-double of the season. Tionnia McKee added 10 points for the Broncbusters, who snapped a three-game losing streak.
Jones tied a season-high with four 3-pointers for Colby, who lost their eighth straight game. Janea Dennis added eight points, and Johnson reeled in 12 rebounds.
"We still have time to position ourselves in league play," Salazar added. "We just have to put everything together."
Facing a Colby team that had lost 17 out of their last 18 conference road games, the Broncbusters had a chance to put their foot on the Trojans' throat early. And after Megan Besecker drilled a 3-pointer at the end of the first, Garden City had a 20-10 lead.
But the Broncbusters misfired on 14 of their 16 shots in the second quarter, and the Trojans twice cut the lead to four before Garden City pushed it back to six at the half.
"Colby always shoots the ball well against us," Salazar said. "That's why they've always been able to stay in the game."
This time it was just the opposite. Colby shot themselves out of the game, going 14-of-75 from the floor (19 percent).
Next up: Garden City vs. Seward County-Saturday, January 14-5:45 p.m. pregame; 6 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and mobile app: KWKR