By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-During the fourth quarter of their loss Friday night to Coffeyville, Garden City finally showed the fight that Head Coach Nick Salazar was clamoring for the entire second semester.
The good news for the fourth-year skipper, it carried over into their showdown with Neosho County on Wednesday.
Monica Barefield snapped out of recent shooting slump by scoring 18 points on 7-of-15 from the field, Kavita Akula buried five 3-pointers, and the Broncbusters halted a four-game losing streak with a 76-63 victory over the Panthers at Conestoga Arena.
It was Garden City's first win since Feb. 4 vs. Dodge City.
"I've been saying it for a while: when these girls fight, they're pretty good," Salazar said. "Our effort vs. Coffeyville was tremendous, and it was the same way tonight."
The scary part was they did it with their best player sidelined because of foul trouble.
DeRae Lewis picked up her third foul early in the second quarter. And while it hindered the Broncbusters at first, Garden City (9-19, 7-17) eventually found its groove.
Before they did, Neosho County (10-18, 7-17) gained control early, building a five-point lead thanks to sophomore Brooke Neal, who scored the first 11 points for the Panthers. Neal netted 11 in the first five minutes of the contest but tallied just four the rest of the way.
"I thought we adjusted well throughout the game," said Salazar, whose team began the game in a 2-3 zone. "That and our energy were the biggest differences."
Garden City settled in once Megan Besecker and Akula knocked down back-to-back treys to give Garden City a 14-13 edge. It was one of 10 lead changes over the first 20 minutes of the contest.
In the second quarter, the Broncbusters grabbed the advantage for good when Barefield hit the second of consecutive treys that put Garden City in front 33-32 at the break.
"Monica played really well," Salazar said. "She got her teammates involved and found her shot."
Barefield saved her best for the second half, scoring 12 of her 18 points over the final two quarters, including two triples in the third period that pushed Garden City's lead to five. Akula nailed two 3-pointers, and Angel Muir added a three-point play to give the Broncbusters a 55-43 cushion going into the final period. They led by as many as 17 in the fourth.
"It's been a long time coming," Salazar said. "But we got it done. That's all that matters."
Garden City also ended another streak. They shot over 40 percent from the floor for only the second time in their last 17 games. The Broncbusters finished the game 27-of-56 (48 percent).
Jessica Carillo scored 15 points and pulled down nine rebounds for Garden City. Besecker added 10 and Lewis scored seven points before fouling out in the fourth period.
Neal netted 15 for the Panthers, who lost for the sixth time in their last seven games. Lindsey Plank and Jhanai Felix each added 10.
Next up: Garden City at Colby-Saturday, Feb. 25-5:45 p.m. pregame; 6 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app