By Mike Pilosof
Liberal, KS-Garden City proved in the first few minutes of Wednesday night's contest that they weren't intimidated by No. 6 Seward County. But by game's end, another strong start was a distant memory, and Charinee Mitchell was left wondering what could have been.
Lexi Hernandez scored 22 points, Carla Covane notched her seventh double-double of the season with 16 points and 16 boards, and the Saints pushed past the Broncbusters 83-65 at the Green House. It was Seward County's 46th consecutive homecourt victory.
"I think we just ran out of gas," Mitchell said. "It's definitely getting late in the season."
Just a few weeks earlier, Garden City appeared to have Seward County dead in the water. They held them to a single point over a 12-minute stretch and built a five-point lead late. But the Saints responded with an 11-0 run, and Sylvia Veloso hit a backbreaking trey in the final 30 seconds that put the game out of reach.
"I went back and re watched that game yesterday," Mitchell said. "There are some things we definitely could have done better."
One of those points that she hammered home was to get off to a quicker start, which the Bronbusters did, building a 9-4 lead following Alyssa Boyce's corner 3 with 7:05 left in the first. They never trailed in the opening quarter and were up two going into the second. That's when things slowly started to turn.
Trailing by five, the Saints went to work. Kalen Green drilled a triple, and Covane hit a layup to tie the game at 27. Seward then took it's first lead on Veloso's layup, Vonda Cuamba hit back-to-back transition buckets, and the Saints closed the half on a 19-4 run to take a 41-31 lead into the intermission.
"We may need to slow things down a little bit in practice so we have that second and third wind to get back," Mitchell said. "I think tonight, we just couldn't find that second wind."
Seward County kept pouring it on in the third quarter, building their lead to as many as 18 after Aquila Mucubaquire converted a three-point play.
"Our team is figuring out how to not quit in games," Mitchell said.
That was on full display in the second half, thanks to Talia Roberts. The sophomore scored 19 of her 23 points after the break, including a 3-pointer and a three-point play on consecutive possessions that sliced the deficit to eight with 8:03 to go. Daz'Monique Johnson followed with a second-chance basket, and Garden City was within six, 64-58 with 6:40 remaining.
"We have to learn to finish," Mitchell said. "We have to close games better. We fight back, but we are not closing."
The Saints answered the Broncbusters' blitz with one of their own, outscoring Garden City 19-7 over the final six minutes.
"When you make it a six-point game against a great team like Seward County, you have to make easy buckets," Mitchell said. "We missed a lot of layups."
Mucubaquire scored 15 pointes for Seward County, who won their 16th straight game. Veloso added 14 on 7-of-11 shooting.
Roberts finished the night 7-of-17 and 4-of-8 from downtown for Garden City, who lost for the fourth time in their last five games. Boyce chipped in 17 and Johnson pulled down 10 rebounds.
Next up: Garden City vs. Hutchinson-Saturday, Feb. 9-1:45 p.m. pregame; 2 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.comk/kwkr and KWKR mobile app