By Mike Pilosof
Hutchinson, KS-Since the calendar year flipped to 2018, the Broncbuster women have been on an historical tear.
In January, they won at Coffeyville for the first time in more than 20 years. Then came the first statement victory under Charinee Mitchell, a thorough beat down of second-place Independence.
But nothing could top what Garden City accomplished on Wednesday.
Jada Washington scored 15 of her game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter, her team became just the fourth squad to outrebound Hutchinson all season (32-29), and Garden City beat the 14th-ranked Blue Dragons 56-48. It was the Broncbusters first win at the Sports Arena since Feb. 14, 2004.
"I'm very happy," Mitchell said with a huge smile after the game. "We stuck to our scouting report, and we won a game against a very tough team."
Garden City (15-9, 12-8) not only won the game, they dominated it from the opening tip.
The Broncbusters scored the first seven points of the contest before building an 11-point lead early in the second following Jessica Carillo's hook shot over Jada Mickens that made it 13-2. Garden City held Hutchinson (20-4, 16-4) to just 1-of-12 shooting over the first 10 minutes.
"We defended at an extremely high level the first two quarters," Mitchell said. "It was really bad in the third. But overall, they did well."
Hutchinson battled back in the second quarter, and Mickens 3-pointer from the top of the key cut the Garden City lead to 20-14 with 1:37 left in the half. But the Broncbuster defense stiffened, and the Blue Dragons did not score again in the period. Garden City had a 23-14 advantage at the break.
"Our players are starting to figure out that when you pay attention to the details about each of these teams, you'll be successful," Mitchell said. "And that's the biggest improvement with this team from the first time we played them to now."
When the two programs met in December, the Broncbusters held a five-point lead in the second quarter. But the second-half was a different story as Hutchinson used a 12-0 spurt and a 15-0 run to put the game away.
Fast forward two months, and Garden City was ready for whatever John Onjtes's team threw at them in the second half.
Sara Cramer's left-wing 3-pointer capped off a 5-0 run that pulled Hutchinson to within two, 25-23 with 7:00 left in the third. Following a Garden City turnover, Hutchinson had a chance to tie the game for the first time. But on one sequence, they missed six straight free throws. Abigail Green answered on the other end with a pull-up 18-footer, which ignited a 6-0 surge that pushed the Broncbuster lead back to eight. The Blue Dragons, who came into Wednesday's game as one of the best free throw shooting teams in the conference, were just 4-of-17 at the line.
"Every time they came at us, we had an answer, and that's why we won this game," Mitchell explained.
The Blue Dragons kept coming in the fourth, and Tia Bradshaw's layup made it a one-point game with 3:33 to go.
That's when Washington took over.
The sophomore hit an 18-foot, contested jumper with the shot clock winding down to extend the lead to three. The next time down, she hit a step back deuce from the elbow before nailing a 3-pointer over Alicia Brown that bumped the cushion to six. When it was all said and done, Washington scored her team's final 14 points, handing the Blue Dragons just their third loss at home in their last 45 games.
"This is a big step for us," Mitchell said. "But we can't lose focus on our objective of taking this thing one game at a time."
Washington finished 6-of-13 from the floor for Garden City, who won for the 10th time in their last 13 games. She added two assists and two steals in 31 minutes. Green chipped in nine points, and Kelcy McHenry had seven on 3-of-6 shooting.
Cramer paced the Blue Dragons with 18 points and hit four 3s. It was the ninth time this year she's hit three or more triples in a game. Dejanae Roebuck recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Next up: Garden City vs. Cloud County-Saturday, Feb. 10-1:45 p.m. pregame; 2 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app