By Mike Pilosof
Photos by Adam Shrimplin
Garden City, KS-During the week, Patrick Nee had more conversations with his dad, former Nebraska Head Man, Danny Nee, than he did with his wife, or even his kids. Why? Well, the senior Nee had seen this type of press before, and he wanted his son to be ready for it.
"You've got to cut and keep moving," Danny said during one voicemail he left for Patrick. "They're not cutting."
Now retired, Danny Nee watches all of his sons' practices. And the game plan he and his son concocted, along with assistants Silas Mills and Mike Harding, was one to alleviate a tenacious trapping defense, one that forces teams into killer, self-inflicted mistakes.
On Saturday, Garden City's tactical plan nearly worked. There was just one problem: they ran out of gas.
Mike'l Henderson nailed four 3's, Martaveon Jones scored 18 in 25 minutes off the bench, and No. 23 Cowley stormed back from 12 down in the second half to beat Garden City 110-102 at Conestoga Arena.
"We played well enough to win," Nee said. "But we missed way too many free throws and way too many layups."
Garden City finished 30-of-44 at the line. They were 14-of-21 in the second half.
"You can't make those kinds of mistakes against a team like Cowley," Nee said.
The Broncbusters' press breaker looked like a well-oiled machine in the first half. Garden City continuously found outlets against Cowley's 2-2-1 trap, jumping out to a 9-0 lead. It also helped that their defense was fully engaged, forcing the Tigers to miss their first seven shots from the field. They led 18-9 eight minutes into the game.
"I thought we put together a good game plan, and the guys executed it," Nee said. "But at the end of the day, we know why we lost this game. It's unacceptable to miss free throws. We knew they were going to foul us a ton."
Even though Cowley fought back to tie the game at 33 after Dalen Ridgnal's second-chance bucket, it always seemed that Garden City was in full control. The Broncbusters responded with 10 straight points, capped with Kaleb Favors' layup that stretched the lead to 43-33 with 2:23 remaining in the half. Darius Roden added a transition layup, and Tahlik Chavez slipped a perfect pocket pass to a cutting Steven Samuels, who hammered home his second dunk of the half to make it 49-39 with less than a minute to go.
"We told our guys that you can't build a big enough lead against a team with that kind of firepower," Nee explained.
And boy was he right. In the blink of an eye, the Tigers sliced the deficit in half. Shemarri Allen hit a floating layup, and after a Broncbuster turnover, Cevin Clark, who led the state of Kansas in scoring as a senior at Arkansas City High School last year, swished a corner 3 to make it a five-point game. Garden City was up six at the break.
"We made layups in the first half, and for the most part, we hit our free throws," Nee added. "We played well defensively. That's why we had the lead."
They sustained that edge in the early stages of the second half. Roden completed a three-point play; then added a layup moments later, putting Garden City up 66-54 with 16:07 remaining in the game.
But from there, the home squad was on their heels, thanks to an offensive display that should have the rest of the league on high alert.
Ridgnal drained a pair of 3's, Jacquez Yow finished a three-point play, and Henderson and Jones drained long balls, fueling a 14-2 run that put Cowley up 73-72. After Chavez answered the bell with a 3 of his own to give Garden City the lead back, it was Julius Nwosu drilling a turnaround in the lane. Allen rattled home a midrange pullup; then slashed to the goal for two before Jones knocked in a 3-pointer to put the Tigers up four. Allen added another driving layup, Yow rattled the rim with a two-handed throwdown, and Allen slipped a gorgeous pass to Deng Bol for a two-handed finished, turning a 12-point deficit into a 13-point lead with 1:56 to play.
"We made the extra pass, and really good things happened in the first half," Nee said. "We got away from that as the game went on."
Nwosu, whose dad played professionally with the Boston Celtics and overseas, scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds for Cowley, who matched their best start in eight years at 12-2. Allen chipped in 12 off the bench, and Ridgnal notched his eighth double-double of the season with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Roden poured in a career-high 24 for Garden City, who dropped their second straight game. Chavez scored 22, Daishaun Woods tallied 14, and Traylynn Spencer, who despite playing most of the game in foul trouble, added 13 in 23 minutes.
"Look Coffeyville isn't going to feel sorry for us," Nee said. "We have to move on and find a way to win a game. I believe we have this thing going in the right direction."
Next up: Garden City vs. Coffeyville-Wednesday, Dec. 11-8 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app