By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-There may not be a team better suited to handle Seward County's low-post presence than Garden City, who has been a pesky thorn in Saints Coach Toby Wynn's side the last couple of seasons.
Saturday afternoon at the Perryman Athletic Complex, Wynn's concerns were apparent before Seward County snapped back into top form.
6-8 center Joanna Grymek scored 17 points, pulled down nine rebounds and blocked four shots as the fourth-ranked Saints pushed their way past an inspired Garden City effort for a 75-53 victory.
"I thought our defense was fantastic," Broncbusters Coach Nick Salazar said. "But we could not hit a shot."
Garden City had their second worst shooting performance of the season, connecting on only 19-of-65 shots (29 percent).
"We just can't put a complete game together," Salazar admitted. "We will play well on defense but our offense can't get going. It's been like that all season."
And the loss overshadowed the performance by Garden City guard Leon'Dra Hawkins, who broke out for a career day.
Hawkins drilled five 3-pointers, two of those came during a first quarter run that saw the Broncbusters build a 16-9 advantage with 1:17 to go. But Seward County (17-0, 13-0) quickly rebounded. Brennyn Seagler hit a turnaround jumper in the lane, Erin Richardson canned a trey before Seagler's stick back with five seconds left in the frame tied the game at 16.
"We hung with them for a while," Salazar said. "I think we match up with them very well. We just aren't consistent enough. You saw flashes again."
The Saints extended the run and the lead in the second quarter when Richardson hit her second 3-pointer followed by Grymek's hook shot that capped off a 12-0 spurt for a five-point edge. Seward County outscored the Broncbusters 16-7 in the period and held Garden City (7-10, 5-8) to just 3-of-15 from the field over the final 10 minutes of the half.
"Man if our shot was falling, who knows where we would be," Salazar said.
But even after Neidy Ocuane's three free throws put Seward Count up 67-41 with 5:32 remaining in the fourth, Wynn had to have some sort of pause in the back of his mind.
Back in November, the Saints had an 18-point lead over Cowley in the fourth quarter before the Tigers rallied and actually had a chance to tie in the final seconds.
Wynn got a little dose of déjà vu on Saturday.
The Broncbusters rallied back with a 10-0 run fueled by Jessica Carillo's back-to-back foul-line jumpers. Kavita Akula splashed home a 3-pointer and Monica Barefield hit 1-of-2 at the line to cut the deficit to 16. Then, after a Seward County turnover, Garden City had a chance to climb even closer. But Carillo lost control of the ball, and the Saints responded with an 8-2 spurt to close it out.
"I'm proud of how our girls played," Salazar said. "But we proved early on that we could play with them. It was just a matter of hitting shots and not turning the ball over."
19 turnovers coupled with 46 missed shots turned into a 22-point rout. It was Garden City's third loss by 20 or more points this season.
Hawkins scored a career-high 15 points for Garden City, who lost at home for the third time this season. Carillo netted 10 of her 12 in the second half, and DeRae Lewis added seven points and a game-high 16 rebounds.
Mollie Mounsey added 15 for the Saints, who improved to 17-0 for the first time since 2007. Ocuane scored 11 and Richardson chipped in 10.
Next up: Garden City at Butler-Wednesday, January 18-5:15 p.m pregame; 5:30 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app