By Mike Pilosof
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Arkansas City, KS-In 2016, Nick Salazar's Broncbusters strolled into W.S. Scott Auditorium and handed Cowley a rare home loss. It opened a lot of eyes across the conference.
A year later, that win was a distant memory, thanks to one of the best home-court advantages in the Jayhawk Conference.
Amy O'Neil recorded her sixth 20-point game of the season with 20 and four rebounds, Bridget Mimmo and Rhianna Laing combined to hit five 3-pointers, and the Tigers used surges in the second and fourth quarters to pull away from Garden City 73-51 on Wednesday night.
"Is Cowley 22 points better than us? No," Broncbuster Coach Nick Salazar said. "But they are really talented. We showed that we could play with them for a while. We just made way too many mistakes again."
Garden City (7-13, 5-11) turned it over a season-high 27 times, but the final number wasn't as devastating as what took place in the second quarter.
Kavita Akula's two 3-pointers and DeRae Lewis's layup gave Garden City an 8-4 edge three minutes into the game. But Laing answered with back-to-back 3-pointers, and the Tigers closed the first on a 12-5 run to take a three-point edge into the second.
Then the wheels fell off.
The Broncbusters turned it over nine times and missed on 11 of their 15 shots in the period, all while Cowley used a 13-0 run, fueled by another Laing 3; two, three-point plays by Amy Oneil and a Mimmo trey that put the Tigers on top 35-19 with 1:34 to go in the half. They led 38-22 at the break.
"That first quarter we played really well," Salazar explained. "But we didn't take care of the ball in the second. But I will tell you this: I can't fault our team's effort. They didn't quit, and they played really hard."
As they did in the first quarter, the Broncbusters hung with the 22nd-ranked team in the country in the third. Monica Barefield scored six straight points to begin the frame, followed by Tionnia McKee's three-point play that sparked a 9-0 run, cutting the deficit down to 11. After Cowley pushed it back to 16, Leon'Dra Hawkins hit two free throws, Akula buried her third 3-pointer before Lewis's layup made it a 10-point contest early in the fourth.
"We were in it," Salazar pointed out. "But we made mistakes down the stretch that you can't have on the road."
Like they did vs. Seward after falling down big the week prior, the Broncbusters had a chance to make it a single-digit game on a few separate occasions. Two of them ended with turnovers and a missed jumper by Jessica Carrillo.
Cowley made them pay by closing the contest on a 19-7 run, winning for the 73rd time in their last 83 games on their home floor.
"We don't have many games left to figure this out," Salazar said. "But I will continue to say that we are a work in progress."
Barefield, who scored just two points on 1-of-7 in the first half, netted 10 of her team-best 12 over the final 16 minutes for Garden City, who dropped their fourth straight game. McKee added 10 and Lewis scored 10 before being ejected following a double technical foul with 51 seconds to go.
Mimmo splashed home 17 points for Cowley, who has now won 16 out of their last 20 games vs. conference opponents. Laing added 14.
Next up: Garden City vs. Allen County-Saturday, January 28-5:45 p.m. pregame; 6 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app