By Mike Pilosof
Chanute, KS-It didn't take long for Interim Coach Mike "Scoop" Harding to record his first career victory. And it's one he'll savor for awhile.
Jaleah Bellany came off the bench to score 22 points, Alyssa Boyce added 20, and Garden City earned their first conference win of the season with an 84-74 victory over Neosho Wednesday night at Panther Gymnasium.
"This one feels good," Harding said with a big smile on his face afterwards. "The girls fought, and they stayed solid the whole game."
It was Garden City's first conference win since beating Colby 80-69 on Feb. 20, 2019. It also snapped a three-game skid.
"I'm really at a loss for words," Harding said. "Jaleah gave us a big spark off the bench."
Playing as a reserve for the first time this season, Bellany had a bounce-back performance after struggling the last two games. And it came during a second-quarter stretch that completely flipped the game.
Leading by one entering the period, Garden City turned up the pressure. The result: an 8-0 run in which the Broncbusters converted four Neosho turnovers into eight quick points. Then Bellany checked in and went to work, hitting a scoop layup inside, Dashanae Pajeaud got free in the paint, and Bellany drilled a midrange pullup, capping off a 17-2 surge that had Garden City up 31-17 with 4:04 left in the half. Bellany added a triple moments later, and Pajeaud banked home a layup, giving the road squad a 19-point cushion. They were up 44-26 at the half.
"It wasn't perfect by an stretch," Harding said. "We have to be tougher on the glass and quicker to loose balls."
Garden City was outrebounded 48-35. But that was a mere side note on a night where the Broncbusters played one of their most complete offensive games of the season. They shot 47 percent from the field, their highest clip in more than a month.
Neosho made a couple of attempts to get back in the game in the second half. Morgan Bolen drained three triples including back-to-back during a two-minute stretch, brining the Panthers to within nine, 51-42. But following a timeout, Garden City answered back. Bellany canned a 3 from the left corner, Corina Suarez-Tudela knocked down a long ball from the right side, and Boyce hit a layup, stretching the lead back to 17, 59-43 with 3:12 remaining in the third.
"I really liked our ball movement tonight," Harding said. "The ball wasn't sticking. "We had post touches, which led to some open shots on the perimeter. That's exactly what we wanted to see."
Neosho didn't put much of a dent into the deficit until late in the fourth quarter, pulling to within eight on Ashley Dillinger's second-chance put back with 15 seconds to go. Other than that, it was all Garden City, recording their most lopsided win vs. an NJCAA school since blowing out Trinidad State on Nov. 23.
Pajeaud recorded her second double-double of the season for Garden City, scoring 10 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. Felicity Houston came off the bench to record a team-high five steals, and the Broncbusters shot 12-of-23 (52 percent) during their second-quarter run.
Chrissy Brown notched her eighth double-double with 22 points and 15 boards for Neosho, but was only 6-of-21 from the floor. Hayley Stiger scored 15, and Dillinger and Bolen each chipped in 12.
Next up: Garden City vs. Butler-Saturday, Jan. 11-1:45 p.m. pregame; 2 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app