By Mike Pilosof
Liberal, KS-About six hours before game time, Interim Coach Mike "Scoop" Harding had a big smile on his face.
"I feel really good about our practices the last couple of days," he said. "We are coming off one our best performances of the season."
Unfortunately, that feel-good story, one that had the Broncbusters thinking big heading into the Green House on Monday night, was replaced with Garden City's worst offensive performance of the season.
Leilani Augmon scored 15 points and pulled down nine rebounds, Tianna Johnson went 9-for-10 at the line, and No. 12 Seward County blew out the Broncbusters 104-39.
"I am at a loss for words," Harding said afterwards. "We stopped executing. We basically did the opposite of everything that we said we were going to do."
This was already going to be an uphill battle for Garden City, which was made that much tougher 24 hours before the game when two of their leading scorers, Alyssa Boyce and Dasja Ross, were suspended for a violation of department policy. And their absent was felt dearly.
After Deborah Ford hit a transition layup off the opening tip, the Broncbusters went ice cold. They missed 17 straight shots, Seward responded with a 24-3 run capped by Vanda Cuamba's spinning jumper in the lane, and the Saints were up 24-5 after one. Then, Gina Ballesteros began the second quarter with a 3; she added another one just a couple of minutes later, and Augmon rattled home an elbow jumper, putting Seward in front by 34 at the break, 52-18.
"We've got to get tougher, and we have to start listening," Harding explained. "We have to be better teammates. We just have to find a way to come together."
Garden City endured a first half where they shot just 15 percent (6-of-41) and turned the ball over 16 times.
It only got worse from there.
Seward used a 9-0 run early in the third period to build the lead to 41 once Ballesteros sliced through traffic for a layup. That swelled to 48 at the end of the quarter and to 60 late in the final period on Ayanna Smith's floater in the lane. In all, the Saints outscored the Broncbusters 50-16 in the paint while their bench put up 67 of the 104 points. They shot 52 percent from the floor (36-of-69) while outrebounding Garden City 64-39. Kamry Perez scored 12, Ballesteros added 11, and Hill tallied 10 on 6-of-6 at the line. As a team, the Saints finished 27-of-38 (71 percent) at the stripe.
Ford scored 10 points for Garden City, who lost to Seward for the 10th straight time. Ariyanna Hall had 10 but missed 14 of her 17 shots.
Next up: Garden City vs. Hutchinson-Wednesday, Jan. 15-5:45 p.m. pregame; 6 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM; westernkansasnews.com/kwkr and KWKR mobile app