By Mike Pilosof
Photo by Adam Shrimplin
Odessa, TX-For years, Odessa was considered unbeatable at home. Well, all of that changed thanks to Garden City, who notched their first statement win of the young season.
Tahlik Chavez scored 20 of his team-high 21 points in the second half, Traylynn Spencer notched his second double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds, and the Broncbusters snapped the Wranglers 26-game homecourt winning streak with a 72-65 victory Friday night at the Odessa Sports Center. It's the Wranglers first home loss since Feb. 20, 2017.
"I'm so proud of this group," Garden City Head Coach Patrick Nee said. "They were so scrappy. We won because we had more heart."
They definitely showed that and then some; especially Chavez, who shook off a nightmare first half. The freshman sharpshooter missed all six of his shots in the first 20 minutes.
"I told Tahlik that we really needed him in the second half," Nee said. "But we had to make 3's. We couldn't have another shooting performance like that in the second half."
Even with Chavez struggling, the Broncbusters sprinted out to a seven-point edge in the first half. Spencer converted a three-point play; then splashed home two free throws, Kaleb Favors and Steven Samuels combined to go 4-for-4 at the line, and Garden City was up 14-7 with 12:11 to go.
"We just were really, really tough tonight," Nee said. "We didn't play perfect, but we made enough plays and enough free throws to win the game."
It was definitely a struggle to get to the finish line.
Odessa erased the seven-point deficit, punctuated by two long balls, one by Kareem Welch, who averaged 36 points and nine rebounds per game as a senior at Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, NY; the other by David Ward, the No. 1 recruit in Oklahoma a couple of years ago-putting the Wranglers on top 29-24 and capping a 22-10 run. Odessa was up 34-31 at the break.
"There was really no panic tonight," Nee said. "They just stayed with the game plan."
That was far from simple, considering the fact that Wranglers' Head Coach Kris Bauman threw a slew of different zones and traps at them, which forced Garden City into 13 turnovers. And as quickly as the Broncbusters raced back to take the lead on back-to-back 3-pointers by Chavez and Daishaun Woods to start the second half, was how fast it eroded, thanks to mistakes, which ignited an 8-0 Odessa run that put the home team up 42-37 with 16:17 remaining.
"I'm proud that my guys controlled their emotions and played really hard," Nee added.
What makes this win even more impressive is the fact that there were so many momentum shifts, especially in the second half. There were 13 lead changes in the game; seven of those came over the final 20 minutes.
Darius Roden canned a 3, Spencer dropped in consecutive layups; then dropped a gorgeous dime to Woods, who finished with two hands at the basket, putting the Broncbusters in front 57-56 with 5:43 to go. After Tauriawn Knight answered back with a layup on the other end to give Odessa a one-point edge, it was Roden, slicing into the paint for an and-1 layup. Garden City never trailed again.
"I'm really proud of Traylynn," Nee said. "We knew with their zone, that he was the key to everything, and we tried to find him all night at the high post."
Spencer more than did his part, but it was Chavez that brought this one home.
With the game still teetering, the freshman sent a stake right into the Wranglers' heart with an array of big shots. His deep 3 from the right wing capped a 9-2 run that had Garden City up 66-60. Then, after Naj Ashley Emory fouled Joe Kasperzyk, who drained a 3 to cut the lead in half, Chavez swished a triple from the left-side angle, making it 69-63 with 40 seconds to go.
"I don't even know what Midland could have gotten from watching us tonight," Nee said. "We didn't run any man offense. Everything was against the trap or their different zones."
Chavez was 5-of-9 from the field and 4-of-6 on 3's in the second half for Garden City, who beat Odessa for just the second time in the last nine years. Ironically, the last Broncbuster coach to win a game against the Wranglers was Bauman. Spencer was 8-of-16, and Favors finished with nine points and a team-best five assists.
Kasperzyk scored 18 points for Odessa, who shot a season-low 35 percent from the field. Knight added 15.
Next up: Garden City vs. Midland, Saturday, Nov. 23-11:45 a.m. pregame; noon tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app