By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-As of late February, no one in the Jayhawk Conference would argue against the fact that Seward County is the clear-cut favorite to win the league. But it also is not farfetched to think that the Broncbusters could make some serious noise in Region VI.
And all Saturday's performance did was confirm what the numbers have been telling us: Garden City is a much different team since Jan. 1.
Shakendra Tilley recorded her fifth double-double of the season with 16 points and 14 rebounds, Abigail Green added 19 points, 11 boards and six assists, and the Broncbusters swept the season series from Coffeyville with a 73-50 victory at Conestoga Arena. With the win, Garden City improved to 10-4 since the calendar flipped to 2018.
"We did what we had to do," Head Coach Charinee Mitchell said after the game. "We built a big lead, and for the most part, we played really well. There was one stretch late in the game where we let them score, that I was getting on them about."
After a first quarter that saw three lead changes and two ties, Garden City took command. Trailing by three with 2:48 to go in the period, the Broncbusters used a 14-1 run, sparked by Jessica Carillo's quarter-ending 3, which was followed up by Dejanie Graves long ball to start the second and Tilley's layup that put Garden City up 23-15 with 7:55 to go in the half.
"We played great team ball," said Mitchell, whose squad racked up 19 assists. "I didn't even know the number was that high, but that says a lot about what we've done the last couple of games."
The Broncbuters built their first double-digit lead of the game when Green stole the ball away from Tatiana McRee at half court and glided in for an uncontested layup that gave Garden City a 27-17 cushion. Green scored again just 30 seconds later, giving the home squad their largest advantage of the first half.
"I told the girls that we almost played a complete game," Mitchell said. "They gave me 37 minutes. We need to be able to put 40 together."
Coffeyville (14-13, 12-11) kept themselves in it, holding Garden City to just two points over the final 4:23 of the second quarter while cutting the Broncbusters lead to six, 31-25 at the intermission.
"In the second quarter, I felt like we had a three-minute lull where they got back in the game," Mitchell said. "Other than that, I liked what I saw."
Whatever momentum the Red Ravens had late in the first half, went up in smoke coming out of the locker room. Jada Washington nailed a 3-pointer and Daz'Monique Johnson finished a two-handed layup at the rim, bumping the lead back to 12. Green drilled a long ball and Johnson hit another layup, capping off a 7-0 surge that gave Garden City a 47-30 lead. They were up 17 going into the fourth.
"For the most part, we outworked Coffeyville," Mitchell said. "That's why we won the game."
The Broncbusters put their foot on the accelerator in the final stanza, and after Graves hit her second 3 of the game, Garden City had a 73-44 advantage.
"I was hoping that the way we shared the ball in the Pratt game would carry over," Mitchell said. "And it sure did."
Garden City shot a season-best 50 percent from the floor and outrebounded Coffeyville 38-18. They turned it over just seven times, their fewest in a game since Jan. 20.
"We have to keep building momentum," Mitchell said. "It has to carry over."
Johnson added 10 points in 15 minutes for the Broncbusters, who improved to 17-1 when leading going into the fourth quarter. Graves tallied eight off the bench, and Carillo finished with seven.
Lucy Burke scored 16 points and hit four 3's for Coffeyville, who fell to just 5-9 on the road this season.
Next up: Garden City at Neosho-Wednesday, Feb. 21-5:15 p.m. pregame; 5:30 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app