Effort and tenacity enabled the Lady Panthers of Neosho County Community College to come within striking distance of Garden City Wednesday, but in the end, the three-point basket prevented NCCC from winning its first game of the new year at home.
Ironically, it was NCCC’s three-point shots that cut the lead to nine with 4:26 left in the third thanks to Morgan Bolen’s two 3s.
Another play for the Lady Panthers that made it close was when Hayley Stiger was fouled in the post after hitting a point-blank layup. She made the free throw to make the score 70-60 with 5:15 left in the game.
But 7-of-15 (46.7 percent) 3-pointers pulled Garden City away late, officially putting the score at 84-74 and dropping the Lady Panthers to 5-8 on the year at home.
Leading scorers for NCCC were Chrissy Brown with 22 points (second leading scorer in the conference at 16.9 points a game) and 15 rebounds – Brown’s eighth double-double on the early season – and Stiger registered 15 points and six rebounds, while the 2018-19 All-KJCCC Honorable Mention in Jessica Jones and Ashley Dillinger put up 12 points apiece. Dillinger produced a double-double, adding 10 rebounds to her production.
But the long ball would prevail for the Lady Bronco Busters, putting the Lady Bronco Busters up 59-43 with 3:12 remaining in the third.
Garden City created enough of a gap to hold on until the end.
“We don’t rotate well on our 2-3 zone, so we didn’t cover the three-point line. We’ve been better at it in the last couple of games, and tonight we just sunk in at the wrong times,” head coach JJ Davis said.
While NCCC fought resiliently in the second half, the game was that much closer in the first.
With the Lady Panthers down by a point entering the second quarter, Garden City went on a 17-2 run, which resulted from four turnovers that scored eight points for the Lady Bronco Busters. And by the end of the first half, Garden City was up 44-26.
In the end, Garden City would get its first conference win of the year.
Still, Davis said there are some positives he can take out of this sixth loss in a row, especially since last year Garden City won handily over NCCC by 35.
“We’ve got to find a way to win one of these close games. We find some way to win some close games, we will be better,” Davis said. “My kids worked hard, they played hard. On some nights, it’s just that way. I can’t blame my sophomores all 40 minutes. When our freshmen step up, do the right thing, we will be pretty good. Until then, we are going to struggle a little bit. That’s my fault. That’s me not putting enough love and time with them. And we will. We will get 1 percent better every day. We got 1 percent better today, so it’ll all come together.”
Other positives include NCCC winning the turnover battle. The Lady Panthers had 24 turnovers in comparison to Garden City’s 25. And NCCC out-rebounded Garden City 48 to 35.
The difference was mostly just that second quarter run by Garden City, and hitting three-pointers in key spots. Garden City shot 36 percent from deep, while NCCC was at 23 percent.
NCCC (5-8, 0-6) will gear up to win versus Seward County (11-3, 6-0) Saturday, 5:30 pm at home.