By Mike Pilosof
Great Bend, KS-Garden City is used to getting off to fast starts. It's the finish that has given them problems all season long.
Taylor Regan scored 26 points, Mallory Miller drilled four 3's, and Barton County erased a 12-point first-half deficit to beat the Broncbusters 83-74 Saturday night at the Kirkman Center.
"We have to find ways to close games," Head Coach Charinee Mitchell said. "That's been a problem for us. We just didn't execute."
The Broncbusters looked right at home playing in the Cougars' gym. Daz'Monique Johnson hit a jump shot, Alyssa Boyce followed with a short deuce and a three-point play, and Garden City had a 29-17 edge 11 seconds into the second period.
"Everything was pretty smooth for us in that first quarter," Mitchell said. "We executed very well."
The second quarter-not so much.
Barton County found their rhythm, thanks to Taylor Nichols, who answered with a 3-pointer, Regan and Jaylin Stapleton splashed home a pair of free throws, and D'Shonda Hunt beat two defenders off the bounce for a layup before hitting two freebies that give Barton County a 30-29 advantage with 3:12 left in the first half. In all, they closed the second period on a 24-8 run and led 41-37 at the break.
"Defensively, you have to guard better," Mitchell said. "We have to become a better defensive team if we are going to win games-especially, on the road."
Garden City fought back in the third to take a four-point lead, once Sarah Alsabbaheen drilled a trey from the wing. Talia Roberts chipped in two free throws, and the road squad had a 61-57 advantage going to the fourth.
"Even after losing the lead in the first half, we were still in position," Mitchell said.
With the game tied in the final period, Johnson found a crease to the basket for a layup, putting Garden City back up by two. Moments later, Roberts answered Regan's jump shot with a trey to give the Broncbusters a 71-69 lead with 3:34 left. It was the last time they were in front.
The Cougars held the Broncbusters to just three points the rest of the way, closing the game on a 14-3 run. Barton County hit 4-of-6 free throws in the final 30 seconds to complete the comeback.
Barton County finished the night 10-of-22 from downtown. They were 27-of-31 from the line and outrebounded Garden City 40-38. Their bench outscored the Broncbusters 33-14.
Roberts scored 26 for Garden City in the losing effort. She was 10-of-12 from the line. Johnson added 17 points and 12 rebounds, and Jaleah Bellany tallied 11, including three triples, one of which was the only field goal for the Broncbusters in the final 3:30.
Next up: Garden City at Seward-Wednesday, Feb. 6-5:15 p.m. pregame; 5:30 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app