By Mike Pilosof
Photo by Adam Shrimplin
Odessa, TX-After their biggest win of the season, Garden City was back on the court less than 15 hours later. And boy did it show over the first 20 minutes on Saturday.
Midland took advantage of slow rotations and missed assignments, nailing 11 3's in the first half, Kirk Smith tied a season-high with 18 points, and Midland held off a furious Broncbuster rally to score a 74-68 victory over Garden City at the Odessa Sports Center.
"I know we were tired, but that's not an excuse," Head Coach Patrick Nee said. "That's not excuse for not closing out on guys. Guys just weren't getting there fast enough."
Garden City's tired legs were on full display early in the opening period. Nee's team clanged their first four shots while Midland couldn't miss. Smith hit a triple to begin the game, then sprinkled in another moments later, Derrick Ogechi canned a wide-open trey, and the Chaparrals were up 13-6 with 14:10 to go.
"You can't fall behind against a team from that conference," Nee said. "They will run you out of the gym."
Garden City appeared to find their footing once Derrick Bryant drilled a 3 and Traylnn Spencer completed a three-point play that knotted the game at 15. But that's when Midland hit the Broncbusters with an avalanche, scoring 13 straight points, draining four bombs during the run-two of them by Amani Harris that put the Chaparrals up 28-15. After Kaleb Favors stopped the bleeding momentarily with an and-1 layup for Garden City, Smith swished back-to-back treys to push the lead to 17. It swelled to as many as 22 following Ogechi's corner triple that made it 44-22 with 2:27 remaining in the half.
"I could see this coming in warmups," Nee explained. "We just didn't have the energy."
And it started with their defense, which allowed Midland to shoot 55 percent from downtown over the first 20 minutes. Garden city trailed by 15 at the break.
"I didn't have to say much to these guys at halftime," Nee said. "They knew what needed to be done."
When the game resumed, Midland still hadn't cooled off. Ogechi, who set a career-high with five long balls, drained two in the first 4:30 of the final period, giving Midland a 56-35 advantage.
Then Nee changed course.
After not trapping much in the first half, mainly because they shot so poorly, the Broncbusters used a tenacious 2-2-1 press, completely flipping the game. They induced 10 turnovers in the second half and finally cutoff the wide-open looks. That sparked the offense, igniting a 10-0 run. Darius Roden splashed home a 3 from the wing, Spencer connected on a three-point play and a short jumper, and Garden City was back to within 11. Moments later, Spencer drove baseline, cocked back and threw down a ferocious two-handed jam while absorbing a shot to his right arm, Favors dropped in a pair of free throws, and Spencer connected on a jump hook, slicing the Chaparrals once 22-point cushion down to four, 62-58 with 6:55 to play.
"We were just more intense in the second half," Nee said. "We had to be aggressive."
After Midland stretched the lead back to eight, which included Ogechi nailing a 3 from the right corner, Garden City again fought their way back to within striking distance. Favors knocked down two more free throws before Spencer knocked down consecutive midrange jumpers to make it a two-point game, 68-66 with 3:28 to go.
Then, just like that, Garden City went cold again.
The Broncbusters had a multitude of chances to tie or take the lead but never could. Favors had a key turnover with less than three minutes remaining, and Spencer was called for a questionable offensive foul on the right block. After a missed free throw by Midland, Roden missed a clean-look 3 from the right corner. But the game, in a nutshell, came down to one possession, one in which the Broncbusters played great defense, forcing a contested 3 by Ogechi that hit the left rim. But Elijah Scranton tracked down the offensive rebound in the left corner and was fouled by Daishaun Woods. The freshman hit two free throws before swishing two more 10 seconds later.
"Give Midland a ton of credit," Nee said. "They put pressure on us with their actions. But we have to defend better, period."
Down by four, Garden City was afforded one more chance with 15 seconds to go once Midland was called for a five-second violation in the backcourt. But the officials missed a blatant foul as Tahlik Chavez was hit by Thomas Miles shooting a 3 in the right corner. Harris grabbed the rebound and was fouled-then proceeded to drain two free throws with seven seconds to play, as the Chaparrals finally put an end to the Broncbusters' comeback bid.
"It's a tough turnaround again because we play on Monday," Nee said. "But this will get us ready for conference, which starts on Wednesday."
Ogechi finished with 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting for Midland, who won for just the second time this season vs. an NJCAA opponent. Harris added 12 points in 22 minutes.
Spencer scored 15 of his game-high 22 points in the second half, logging 30 minutes for the second straight game for Garden City. Favors had 16 and three assists, and Roden finished with 10 points and four rebounds.
Next up: Garden City vs. McCook-Monday, Nov. 25-5:45 p.m. pregame; 6 p.m. tip on 99.9; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app