By Mike Pilosof
Photo by Adam Shrimplin
Enid, OK-Five games into the 2019-2020 season, Garden City has already faced plenty of adversity.
Suiting up just nine players (three were suspended for violating team rules and didn't travel), the Broncbusters had No. 20 NOC Enid on the ropes for most of the afternoon. But in the end, reigning NJCAA All-American Sarah Griswald was too much, scoring 22 points as the Jets held off Garden City 72-70 on day one of the Chick-fil-A Classic at the Stride Bank Center.
"This one hurts," Head Coach Omega Tandy said afterwards. "We had them where we wanted them, but the beginning of the fourth quarter, with those three layups straight to the basket, absolutely killed us."
That nightmare stretch to begin the final frame wiped away a tremendous comeback by Garden City, one in which they erased an 11-point deficit and held a 50-48 advantage going into the last 10 minutes. But the brown and gold gave up a short jumper to Griswald and three straight easy layups that gave NOC Enid a 56-50 advantage with 7:32 remaining.
"We were playing a triangle-and-two, so we were face guarding," Tandy said. "But no one turned around, and the middle was wide open."
That game plan was devised to stop 3-point marksman Shelby Black, who came in as one of the top long-distance shooters in the region, and Kaylee Hurst, a state champion from Woodward, Okla., who was averaging 16 points per game on 50-percent shooting. And for the most part, it worked, except for that fatal two-minute stretch in the fourth period.
"We have to play better on defense," Tandy explained. "That's where it starts. Defense and knocking down shots."
Garden City shot just 35 percent (25-of-71), marking the fourth time in their first five games that they've been held under 40. But still, the Broncbusters gave the Jets all they could handle.
After falling down by 11 following Hurst two free throws that made it 36-25 with 1:04 left in the first half, the Broncbusters went on the offensive. Jaleah Bellany knocked down a 3-pointer, Deborah Ford swished two free throws, and Felicity Houston hit a buzzer-beating trey to pull Garden City to within three, 36-33 at the break. Then, following a slow start to the third where the Jets scored six straight points out of the locker room, Bellany again weathered the storm with a 3, igniting a 10-0 run that put the Broncbusters in front 43-42 halfway through the quarter. Ford added a nice reverse layup before Bellany wiggled around a Dashanae Pajeaud pick at the top of the key and buried a straight-on triple to give Garden City a two-point edge going into the fourth.
"We're right there, but right there isn't getting it done right now," Tandy said. "We are going to play our game. We're going to shoot and play defense. People know what we're going to do, we just have to execute better."
Garden City hit 12 3's, the third time this season they've knocked down 10 or more. Bellany scored 14 of her team-best 19 points in the second half, and Ford tallied 16 and eight boards. Tyla Happer chipped in nine off the bench.
Griswald was super efficient, knocking down 10-of-16 shots for NOC Enid, who improved to 5-0 for the first time since 2016. Hurst and Black combined to go 8-of-14, with Black finishing with 13 points and three triples.
Next up: Garden City vs. NOC Tonkawa-Friday, Nov. 15-12:45 p.m. pregame; 1 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app