The Dodge City Conquistadors mens and womens basketball teams each won Tuesday night, beating the Neosho County Panthers.
The night started with the womens game, where the Conqs emerged with a 82-74 victory.
The Conqs started slow, falling behind by as much a five points when they trailed 8-3 early. They then rallied though, going on a 9-2 run to take the lead 12-10 on a 3-pointer by freshman guard Rylee Burris.
Dodge City led 44-34 at halftime, but Neosho made it close at the end. The Conquistadors had lost their prior game 70-38 against Coffeyville last Saturday.
Burris had a game-high 17 points coming off the bench.
“It felt great,” Burris said about the win. “The girls really wanted this one and we finished strong and that’s what we’ve got to do for Colby.”
The Conquistadors take on Colby in Colby, Kansas this Saturday.
Burris’ 3-pointer to give the team the lead was followed not long after by another that pushed the lead to 17-13. Seeing consecutive shots fall felt great, she said, and both for her and for the team.
“It just really helped the team keep pushing and pushing and not stepping off the pedal, just keep pushing on, and we just finished really strong,” Burris said.
Burris finished shooting 6-7 from the field, 3-4 from 3-point range and 2-4 from the free throw line.
Head womens basketball coach Zach Loll said he knew the Panthers would put pressure on the Conquistadors, and was something that made him nervous.
“We did OK handling the pressure, not great, but we did alright with it,” Loll said.
The team shot the ball better, he said, which was big, though he would have liked to have seen the team commit less than the 25 turnovers they had. Neosho ended the night with 26.
Loll said Burris gave the team a big lift coming off the bench.
“We’ve just gotta build on this, and enjoy a couple days here with Thanksgiving and things, and then get ready to go to Colby on Saturday,” Loll said.
Loll said that even though it helped the team bounce back from their most recent loss, it also helped them develop some confidence that they can close out close games.
“It makes the girls feel good, really helps them confidence-wise,” Loll said.
In the mens game, the Conquistadors survived a massive second-half rally by the Panthers to escape with a 75-72 win.
Sophomore guard Bruce Hodges made 3-4 free throws including two at the end of the game which helped secure the team’s victory.
Hodges said there was a lot of pressure as he stepped to the free throw line in the game’s final minutes, seeking to help his team tie the Panthers, or give his team the lead.
“But then I thought coach got me in the game for a reason,” Hodges said. “I knew he had trust in me so I had trust in myself.”
The game, however, was far from close until the second half. Dodge City led from the first shot, leading by as much as 19. In the second half though, the Panthers came out and started to eat away the lead.
With 6:10 left in the second half, a 3-pointer gave the Panthers their first lead of the game.
Hodges said the game reminded him of two games ago when the team played Pratt. The Conquistadors overcame a massive deficit in that game to win it.
It wasn’t a perfect night for Neosho shooting either. Hodges said they normally don’t have nights where some of the shots the Panthers took didn’t fall.
“It was good (to see them miss) because on nights they can hit those shots, and they hit those shots during most of their other games during the season, and we were fortunate for them to miss em,” Hodges said.
Head coach Steve Tucker said he new Hodges was shooting under 50 percent from the line coming into the game but he knew Hodges would get it done.
“He’s a bigtime player and bigtime players live for big moments,” Tucker said.
The team, Tucker said, is maturing as a basketball team.
“I knew that they would make runs at us,” Tucker said. “I didn’t know they’d come back and take the lead with under five (minutes) to go but they did and I thought that was good for us too,” Tucker said.
Combined with the recent loss and the teams own come-from-behind victory, Tucker said Tuesday night's win was huge in the development of this young team.
The lessons from win against Pratt two games ago, and those from the loss to top-10 team in Coffeyville all showed up Tuesday night, he said.
"All of that teaches you lessons, and it teaches you poise, and I think we're growing, and we're gonna continue to grow," Tucker said. "I think this team's got a real chance to be a real special basketball team and I think everybody sees it. It's not about size. It's not about how big the dog is. It's all about how much of a heart that dog has and what kind of fight he has, and our guys have tremendous passion for the game and they have great courage and if they keep that, they're gonna be in this thing."
For the women’s team, the win made the team 4-2 overall this season. On the mens side, the win Tuesday night made them 5-2.
Both teams play against Colby Community College on Saturday.