The Dodge City Lady Conquistadors knew they were going to have to grind down on defense in the second half against the Colby Lady Trojans to have any chance of winning their Jayhawk West contest at United Wireless Arena.
Slowly the Lady Conqs whittled down the lead, then did enough to stay ahead once they took the lead to beat Colby 64-63 to end a 38-game conference losing streak.
"I was here last year and didn't win any conference games, so to finally win my first conference game feels good," said sophomore post Casey McCauley. "We're finally coming together and this group of girls is way better and I'm really enjoying it."
it was the first Jayhawk West victory for the Lady Conqs since beating the Lady Trojans three years ago at the Civic Center. In fact, the last four conference victories for Dodge City has been against Colby as the Lady Conqs haven't beaten any other Western Division opponent since March 2007.
Dodge City had trailed by eight at halftime and saw the margin move up to nine early after intermission before starting their climb back into the ballgame. They helped themselves on defense by forcing 20 Colby turnovers after the break — the Lady Trojans took only 16 shots during the stanza — to score 19 points off of those miscues.
The Lady Conqs, who only had eight players suit up, also attacked the boards for second chance points (9) and to get to the free throw line (12) in the second half.
"It's a great feeling and I feel proud for our kids," said Dodge City head coach Lucas McDonald. "We really got down and guarded in the second half. We made some adjustments and had to come out and guard and that's what we did.
"We just have to get used to in this league is that it's a grind and you have to find ways in these type of games to pull it out and get stops and finish plays."
Kelli Tolar hit a lay-up to tie the game at 50-50 with 6:15 left in regulation and the Lady Conqs took the lead at 55-53 on a three-point basket by Nicole Salazar.
Colby was able to build the lead back up to two before Dodge City was able to push ahead for good on a basket by McCauley.
Dodge City made four of their last six free throws to make it a three-point game, but Colby's Agnese Aramina forgot the margin and made a lay-up with 0.2 seconds left on the clock.
Tolar led the Lady Conqs (7-10, 1-2) with 22 points and eight rebounds, while Jameeshia Armstrong added 14 and Salazar 11 in the victory.
"We all had the best team effort we've had all season," Tolar said. "Everybody did their job and stepped up at certain times when we needed to win the game."
Shantydra Arnold led Colby (6-9, 0-3) with 24 points, while Aramina added 15 and Kytiana Seals 10 in the loss. Aramina recorded a double-double with 10 rebounds to go with her points.
The first half primarily was one of runs as a seven-point run by Colby was answered by a 10-point run by the Lady Conqs. Dodge City led by one with four minutes remaining before the Lady Trojans closed out the half with a 12-3 run to earn their largest lead (38-30) at halftime.
Colby shot 16-of-32 from the field (including 6-of-13 from 3-point range. Aramina and Arnold scored 12 points apiece to lead the Lady Trojan charge.
Tolar led the Lady Conqs in scoring with 14, making five of her nine shots. The remaining Dodge players were 5-of-17 from the field.
The Lady Conqs return to action Saturday night when they play on the road against Pratt at the Beaver Dome. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.