By Mike Pilosof
El Dorado, KS-Garden City Coach Nick Salazar will never make excuses for his team; even though Wednesday night he had a built-in one there to absorb.
But even the shorthanded Broncbusters could acknowledge this: even at full strength, nobody could have stifled Butler's out-of-this-world shooting.
After sitting out the last two games because of a suspension, Alecia Gulledge returned to score a season-high 20 points while her team went bonkers from downtown-nailing a season-best 13 triples as Butler rolled past Garden City 76-46 at the Power Plant.
"I know we have the built-in excuse," said Salazar, whose team was playing with a very sick Kavita Akula and without Leon'Dra Hawkins. "But we aren't going to use it. We lacked energy on both ends. And nobody expected them to hit that many 3's. But when you zone them, that's the end result."
Entering the game, the Grizzlies were averaging a conference-low four 3-point makes per game. They equaled that in the first 13 minutes of the contest.
Butler (12-4, 9-4) hit three straight treys to close the first period; two of those by Kyeria Hanna who was a combined 3-of-18 from distance in the Grizzlies previous 15 games.
While Butler could not miss, Garden City had trouble finding the ocean. Salazar's squad misfired on nine of their first 10 shots and trailed 15-4 after one.
"It's hard to pinpoint why we've been so inconsistent on offense," Salazar admitted. "Kavita probably should not have played in the game."
The only saving grace for Garden City (7-11, 5-9) was Tionnia McKee, who scored 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting. The problem was the rest of the team was a combined 10-of-36 from the floor (28 percent).
Butler's red-hot shooting continued in the second period, draining four more 3-pointers. Loyola-Chicago transfer Dakota Vann hit back-to-back treys before Kendriana Washington splashed one home from deep, giving the Grizzlies a 29-9 lead with 5:30 left in the half. Fittingly Butler's last field goal of the second was a Gulledge triple, putting the Grizzlies up 20-point going into the locker room.
Butler's first-half stat line: 38 points, 7-of-12 from downtown and 46 percent shooting from the field.
"Those numbers are hard to take," Salazar said. "We zoned them, and they knocked down shots."
Garden City (7-11, 5-9) never got any closer than 16 the rest of the way as the Grizzlies hit 6-of-9 from deep in the second half and opened up a 32-point lead with 1:28 to play in the fourth.
Hannah, who has already signed with TCU, scored 11 points for the Grizzlies, who won for the 29th time in their last 33 home games. Vann added 10 points and Washington had nine points and seven rebounds.
Jessica Carillo recorded her fifth, double-figure scoring game of the season, posting 15 for the Broncbusters, who dropped their fifth game in their last six outings. DeRae Lewis scored eight points and pulled down six rebounds.
"When it rains it pours," Salazar said.
Butler hit the Broncbusters with a flurry right out of the gates, scoring the first seven points of the game. After Garden City trimmed the lead to 7-4, Butler answered with a 10-0 run and never looked back.
Next up: Garden City vs. Barton County-Sunday, January 22-4:45 p.m. pregame; 5 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM: westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app