The stage was set and the atmosphere couldn’t have been much better Wednesday night in the Greenhouse as the #9 Seward County Saints welcomed their arch rival Garden City Broncbusters to Liberal for a Jayhawk West Conference tilt. With fans amped up for the rivalry matchup as well as the presence of the winningest coach in college basketball in the past 7 years, Bill Self of Kansas, the Saints and Busters tipped things off, but it wouldn’t be the home folks that went home with a smile on their face. Garden City controlled the game from the opening tip and shot a blistering 57% to come away with an 81-74 upset win over Seward.

Both Seward and Garden came out swinging as the Busters scored on their first possession as did the Saints after Brice Jenkins went inside to Edson Avila. Garden City scored the next 6 points to take an early 8-2 lead and extended their lead to 15-6 to force a Saints timeout with 13:31 to go in the half. Irvin Hollinger hit two free throws out of the break to make it a 7 point game but the Busters just kept coming and again scored 6 straight to take their largest lead to that point at 21-8. The Saints regrouped and got back into the game later on as Deverell Biggs scored on a drive to cut it to a 6 point Garden City advantage with 9:13 to go in the half but Seward had no answer for the potent offensive attack from the Busters and soon Garden City had once again built their lead to double figures at 35-24 with under 3 minutes remaining in the half. With just over a minute to go in the half, the Saints got a once in a decade highlight reel play as 5’11 Trey Starks exploded on a 3 on 2 dish from Marcus Williamson to jump over the top of a Garden City defender to slam the ball home through the hoop to send the Greenhouse into an eruption. As Starks was fouled on the play, it would be nearly 50 seconds from the time of the dunk to the time Starks would shoot the free throw as the packed house began to come back down off the high of the play. With the crowd back in the game and the Saints seemingly with momentum on their side with the Garden lead down to 7, Seward tried to dig in on defense on the other end but a Garden bucket answered the dunk and a free throw in the final minute sent the Saints into the locker room trailing by 10, 39-29. Garden City shot 53% in the first half while the Saints usually high powered attack struggled to just 35% from the floor.
The Saints came out in the second half and ramped things up on offense end of the floor but once again could not come up with the defensive stops when they needed them and continued to trail by double digits with under 12 minutes to go. That’s when Garden City made their push to put the game out of reach. The Busters went on an 11-3 run with Seward keeping Garden from scoring just once in six trips down the court to build their lead all the way to 18 at 65-47 to stun the Greenhouse fans watching their 17-2 Saints struggling. Seward remained down 18 with 7 minutes to go but made a push to get back into things as Corieon Pearson hit a three pointer as did Starks, followed by a Pearson runner to make it a 9 points game at 69-60 with 3:12 left. Once again the Saints defense failed them, as needing a stop, Garden City had no problem slashing to the basket and scoring and two straight Buster buckets put them back up double digits and could have been the dagger in the Saints last dash hopes of coming back. The Saints battled back to within 6 in the final minute but it was too little too late as Garden City finished off their upset with a wire to wire win over 1st place Seward 81-74.
Garden City shot a blistering 61% in the second half of the win and finished shooting 57% from the floor while the Saints 2nd ranked offense shot just 40% in the loss. Seward was dominated on the boards by the count of 43-28 to a Garden City team that was 8th out of 9 in rebounding in the conference going into the game. Individually the Saints had 6 players reach double figures including Hollinger and Jenkins who led the way with 14 each. Avila had 7 offensive rebounds and 8 total rebounds to go along with his 12 points and Biggs, Pearson, and Starks also cracked the 10 point mark for the Saints. For Garden City it was All-American Geron Johnson leading the way with 29 points and 7 rebounds in 37 minutes of action.
Seward drops their first game since December 2nd and falls to 17-3 overall on the year while they caught a break in the conference standings as 2nd place Colby was beaten to keep the Saints in 1st place by themselves at 5-1. Next up is a trip to the Power Plant in El Dorado Saturday for the Saints where they will take on a struggling Butler team who is just 7-13 and 1-5 in the conference this season.