By Mike Pilosof
Iola, KS-If there ever was a stark contrast between the way a team started the game and finished, Saturday's conference showdown epitomized it.
Ariel Walker scored 18 points, Maisie Schoreder chipped in 17, and Allen ended a 14-game conference losing streak with an 86-81 victory over Garden City Saturday afternoon at Allen Gymnasium.
"I think this team needs to lose some games to figure this thing out," Head Coach Omega Tandy said afterwards. "This loss was all about effort."
That effort was at it's best in the first four minutes of the opening quarter when Dasja Ross hit an open jumper, Alyssa Boyce canned a 3, and Hidaya Thornton snuck inside for a layup, putting the Broncbusters up 10-2.
"When our team decides that they want to play, we can be pretty good," Tandy said. "But until then, this is what the result will be."
The Red Devils, who came in as one of the worst offensive teams in the conference, found some rhythm. After taking a serious body blow, Allen delivered one of their won, using a 10-2 run that was polished off with Gabby Guzman's trey that put the home squad up 16-15 with 1:18 to play in the period. After Garden City grabbed the lead back at the end of the quarter, Allen responded with eight straight points early in the second. Courtney Crippen hit back-to-back driving layups, and Walker knocked down a midrange pullup, giving the Red Devils a 25-21 advantage.
"I felt like we were in the right spots in this game at certain points," Tandy said. "But other times, we weren't. We just aren't boxing out, and our effort just wasn't there."
The Broncbusters answered with eight straight points of their own. And when Boyce swished a 3, Garden City was up 31-27 with 4:01 to go in the half.
Allen it took it from there.
Brandi Jordan got to the rim, Zariah Sango turned Ross's turnover into a three-point play, Walker hit 5-of-6 free throws, and Kyla Gipson swished a pair of freebies, putting Allen up 43-35 at the break. Garden City was held without a field goal over the final 2:18 of the period and shot 5-of-22 from the field (23 percent) in the quarter.
"We have to figure this thing out," Tandy said. "Before this game, I was worried about this team. We definitely didn't come ready to play."
Things went from bad to worse for the Broncbusters in the third. The Red Devils hit them with a 7-0 surge, which included Schroeder's long ball that pushed Allen's advantage to 13, 52-39 with 7:23 on the clock.
That's when Tandy's squad finally woke up. More specifically, Boyce took charge.
The sophomore scored 11 of her team-high 25 points in the third quarter, using a series drives and pullups to get Garden City back in the game. After Jaleah Bellany scored five straight points to slice the deficit to five, it was Boyce drilling consecutive 3's before beating her defender off the bounce, tying the game at 59 with 2:50 left in the third. She added another layup less than a minute later, capping off a 14-3 run that had Garden City up 65-62. They pushed that to five on Ross's steal and layup to end the quarter, making it 69-64.
But all that good was wiped away in the final stages of the fourth, similar to Wednesday's collapse vs. Cloud. The Broncbusters managed just a single point over the final 5:38. Meantime the Red Devils came storming back, turning a seven-point deficit into an 82-81 lead when Jordan converted a three-point play. Walker drained two free throws to push the home squad's lead to 84-81 with 22 seconds remaining.
"Allen thought they could get this game from the beginning," Tandy added. "So hats off to them and their staff."
Garden City had one last chance to tie the game, but Boyce's 3-pointer from the right wing clanged off the left rim.
The Broncbusters were outrebounded 56-41 and turned it over 28 times, leading to 22 Allen points. Happer scored 13 points, and Bellany added 11; although she was just 3-of-12 from the field.
Crippen scored 16 for Allen, who snapped a three-game losing streak to Garden City. They grabbed a season-high 27 offensive rebounds.
Next up: Garden City vs. Bethel JV-Wed., Dec. 4-4:45 p.m. pregame; 5 p.m. tip on 99.9 FM: westernkansasnews.comkwkr and KWKR mobile app