Broncbusters show fight in loss to No. 17 Otero

Broncbusters show fight in loss to No. 17 Otero

L, 97-86

By Mike Pilosof

La Junta, CO-It's hard to tell just how many games Garden City will win this year. But one thing is for certain: even in defeat, the Broncbusters showed their second-year coach plenty of fight against an offensive juggernaut.

Idaho-transfer RayQuawndis Mitchell hit five 3's and finished with 23 points, Leighton Elliott-Sewell added 18, and No. 17 Otero held off a furious rally from Garden City to win 97-86 Monday night at the McDivitt Center.

"I was just happy that we didn't fold," Patrick Nee said afterwards. "We could have very easily been run out of the gym."

Nee wasn't lying. The game started out like a scene from a horror movie. After Daishaun Woods tied things up at nine, the Broncbusters went stone cold. Meantime, Otero was just catching fire. Marquise Johnson, who missed the last two games, knocked down a 10-footer, Sewell scored five quick points, Yaniel Vidal drilled a corner 3, and Johnson broke down the Broncbuster defense for an easy layup, capping off a 12-0 run that put Rattlers up 21-9 with 13 minutes to go in the first half.

"They're (Otero) a great offensive team," Nee said. "We knew that coming in."

Otero wasn't finished. Following Steven Samuels bucket that ended a near six-minute scoring drought for Garden City, the Rattlers hit the Broncbusters with a fierce combination. Vidal and Romon Douglas-Watkins connected on back-to-back triples before Vidal lobbed a perfect alley-oop pass to Jamal Harris, who skied for a two-handed jam and a 30-11 Otero lead. It was all part of a 21-1 surge that had the home crowd thinking runaway.

"Give our guys a lot of credit for fighting back," Nee said. "We just had to get our feet back underneath us."

The Broncbusters made a strong counter, and Darius Roden knocked down a 3, sparking an 8-0 Garden City run that was punctuated with a Tahlik Chavez bomb. The freshman guard added a runner in the paint, Roden twisted his way through the Rattler defense for a bucket, and Naj Ashley-Emory split two defenders, slicing the deficit to eight, 35-27 with 4:45 to go until halftime.

"We didn't play our best game tonight," Nee said. "We left a lot of points out there on the free throw line."

Garden City finished 11-of-22 from the stripe. But even with those struggles, the Broncbusters found a way to pull to within four at the break following Derrick Bryant's buzzer-beating trey from the top of the key that made it 47-43.

"I felt like we did a great job coming back in this game," Nee added. "But I felt like we were really fatigued in the last 10 minutes."

At the beginning of the second half, Garden City still looked fresh. Emory beat two men to the basket, and Chavez sank two technical free throws to tie the game at 47. Moments later, Emory struck again, which was followed by Woods backdoor cut and layup that gave the Broncbusters their first lead, 51-49 since the 16:20 mark.

"It wasn't hard to see that we just ran out of gas," Nee said. "But you can't fall behind like that against a really good team and expect to be fresh at the end."

Garden City's lead didn't last very long once Johnson hit a pair of free throws on the other end. Harris followed with a 3, and Mitchell finished a pretty-and-1 to put Otero up 59-51 with 14:37 remaining in the game.

"I think our defense has gotten a lot better," Nee said. "We were able to throw some different looks at them tonight."

The Broncbusters closed the gap to three points several times down the stretch, but the Rattlers answered every mini run with a backbreaking bucket. With eight minutes to go, Sewell was wacked across the face as he laid the ball in softly off the glass for a three-point play. The sophomore, who transferred from Polk State, added a nifty hook shot from the right block and another and-1 that stretched the Otero lead to 79-68 with 4:46 to go.

But there was one sequence in particular that put this game on ice. It also had the packed gym in total awe.

Garden City had sliced the lead down to six after Traylnn Spencer glided down the right baseline for a two-hand hammer. But on the other end, after playing solid defense on the perimeter, which forced Jonah Carrasco into a contested jumper, Harris flew in from the weak side, caught the ball above his head, brought it down near his waist before throwing down a ferocious reverse jam plus the foul. It was the type of play that sucked all the life out of Garden City's comeback.

"That was a pretty sick dunk," Nee said. "That guy came from the opposite side of the floor."

The Broncbusters never recovered as the Rattlers pushed the lead to as many as 12 in the final minute.

Otero finished the night 34-of-63 from the field (54 percent), the fourth time in their first six games they've shot better than 50. They canned double digit 3's for the third time this season (11-of-26; 42 percent) and outrebounded the Broncbusters 41-36. Sewell was a perfect 8-for-8 from the floor, Vidal netted 15, and Watkins tied a season-high with 12 boards off the bench.

Garden City shot 48 percent from the floor, shaking off a really-slow start. Chavez led the way with 20 points but was only 6-of-16 shooting. Darius Roden scored a season-high 19 points on 8-of-13, Samuels chipped in 12 points and nine boards, and Spencer tallied 10.

Next up: Garden City at North Platte, Wednesday, Nov. 13-6:45 p.m. pregame; 7 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; and KWKR mobile app