By Mike Pilosof
Trinidad, CO-Another slow start doomed the Broncbusters.
Emma Florez-Pascual scored 13 points, Leah Mafua and Charisse Fairley each netted 12, and Otero pushed past Garden City 79-66 Friday afternoon in the opening day of the Trinidad Classic.
"Otero hit some big shots in the first quarter," Broncbusters' Head Coach Omega Tandy said afterwards. "We just didn't shoot well to begin the game."
"It just wasn't pretty to start the game," Tandy said.
While Garden City went stone cold, Otero couldn't miss. The Rattlers drilled eight 3's in the first 10 minutes of the contest, three of those by Fairley, spearheading a 15-0 run that had Otero up 15-2. Kailey Brown finished the quarter by hitting a 3 at the buzzer, giving the Rattlers a 27-15 advantage.
"We knew we could get back in the game," Tandy said. "We just needed to start knocking down some shots."
Unfortunately, those shots kept clanging off the rim, helping the Rattlers build a 34-15 advantage following a Graycee Lay three-point play. They were up 44-29 at the break.
"Our defense had to get us going," Tandy said. "I don't know if we were saving our legs in the first half."
The second half was a completely different story.
Garden City caught fire in the third quarter. Bellany hit a 10-footer, followed by a layup, and the Broncbusters were back to within 11. They cut it to single digits a minute later when Dasja Ross drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key, forcing Otero Coach Landon Steele to call a timeout.
"We found a way to hit shots in the second half," Tandy said. "But it all started with defense. Once we started to turn it up defensively, that really made the difference."
The Broncbusters kept applying pressure. Ross made a twisting layup, Dashanae Pajeaud split two defenders and got to the rim, and Garden City was within six. Then Tyla Happer, who provided the Broncbusters only offense in the first quarter, swished a jumper before draining a trey from the top of the key just before the buzzer, finishing off an extraordinary quarter in which Garden City outscored Otero 18-6 to close the gap to three, 50-47.
And they kept coming in the fourth, thanks to Ross.
The sophomore got to the rim before burying back-to-back triples to give Garden City their first lead since the opening minute of the game. Then it was Bellany muscling through traffic for a tough two-handed layup that had the Broncbusters up 57-52 with 7:20 remaining.
"We got the lead, and we just got down on ourselves for some reason," Tandy explained. "Otero made some plays in that fourth quarter."
Florez-Pascual started the run for the Rattlers with a three-point play off a nifty finish. She added two more free throws and a layup, Mafua added a deuce, and the Rattlers were up four. Garden City cut it back to one on Ross's three-point play, but that was as close as the Broncbusters got the rest of the way as Otero finished the game on a 14-2 run.
The Rattlers shot 47 percent from the field, hit 11-of-27 3s and outrebounded the Broncbusters 45-36. Four of their five starters scored in double figures.
Ross led the way for Garden City with 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting. She pulled down seven rebounds, four assists and had seven steals. Happer scored a season-high 21 points off the bench, and Bellany dropped in 10 and dished out four assists.
Next up: Garden City at Trinidad State-Saturday, Nov. 23-3:45 p.m. pregame; 4 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app