By Mike Pilosof
Colby, KS-Most coaches will never use the excuse that one call changed the game. But on Wednesday night, one whistle definitely altered the balance of power.
Leading scorer Jamir Thomas fell victim to circumstance. After Eddie Davis was originally called for an offensive foul, the referees came together and changed it-assessing a fourth foul on Garden City's big post player, which was followed up with a technical foul that parked Thomas on the bench for the final 13:47.
"I mean they called one thing and then changed it," Nee said. "It happened so quickly, which is why I didn't argue it. But, I don't understand how they changed that call."
With Thomas on the bench, Colby finished off the weary Broncbusters, getting 16 points from Rian Carter and 11 points and 12 boards from Javion May, as the Trojans snapped a three-game losing streak with a 64-57 win at the Community Building.
"It's been our story all season long," Nee said. "We played selfish basketball. We looked like a bunch of guys trying to get a scholarship, and that's not how this works."
Losing Thomas was a major blow. But Garden City still had their chances down the stretch.
Trailing by four with less than nine minutes to play, Traylyn Spencer knocked down two free throws, and Russhard Cruickshank buried a shot from the top of the key to tie the game at 47. R.J. Pair followed with a deep 2, missing a 3-pointer by inches, putting Garden City up 49-47 with 6:58 remaining.
"I think if there is anything to take away from this game is that our 1-3-1 zone gave them problems," Nee said. "Other than that, this was frustrating."
Garden City took their final lead when Pair hit 1-of-2 free throws, giving the Broncbusters a 50-49 edge with 6:27 on the clock. From there, a sequences of missed opportunities doomed the men in gold.
Carter converted the go-ahead bucket on the other end for Colby, Davis swished two free throws and then hit a driving layup, and Craig Beaduion lasered a perfect baseball pass to a cutting May, who finished at the rim to put the Trojans up by five, 58-53 with 3:36 remaining.
"We just couldn't hit shots when we needed to," Nee said. "I mean, why are taking 22 3's?"
Colby left the door open by missing free throws down the stretch. But Cruickshank clanged an open 3 from the top and a jumper from the elbow in the final 20 seconds, giving the Trojans a season sweep of the Broncbusters.
Moses Bol finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and two blocks for the Trojans, who clinched home-court advantage in the first round of the Region VI Tournament. Beaduion added 10 points and three assists.
Spencer was the lone Broncbuster in double figures with 14 points in 29 minutes. Tony Hopkins, who left the game with an injury, had eight points and two steals.
"We lost Tony and Jaleel (Simmons) to injury," Nee said. "I don't know how that will affect us going forward."
The final 20 minutes was setup by a first half that saw both teams struggle to create any separation. Garden City built an early three-point lead on baskets by Spencer and Hopkins before Colby responded with an 11-2 run that was capped off by Bol's block on one end and Carter's streaking layup at the other, putting the Trojans up 13-7 four minutes into the game. With the half winding down, Pair hit a midrange jumper for Garden City to knot the score at 31 going into the locker room. In all, there were eight lead changes and nine ties in the first half.
Next up: Garden City vs. Barton-Saturday, Feb. 23-4 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app