Coming into the 2009-2010 season the Seward County Saints Basketball team has a lot of expectations. This weekend at the Greenhouse, Saints fans found out why with two high flying wins over solid competition at the 2009 Pepsi Classic over the Colorado Kings and Hesston.
Not many knew what to expect when a team with a name that looked more like a hockey teams name came up on the 2009-2010 Seward County Menís Basketball schedule. But, the Colorado Kings showed that they were no joke at all giving the Seward County Saints team, ranked as high as #5 in some national publications, all they could handle Friday night in the Greenhouse. The two teams went back and forth early and Seward led by just two 3 and a half minutes in after a finish down low from Latiq Agard to put the Saints up 10-8. A quick 6-0 run for the Kings gave them a four point cushion but Marcus James would erase that a short time later with a bucket to tie the game at 19 with 12 minutes to go in the first half. Later on in the first half Seward would be held without a field goal for nearly 5 minutes in which time the Kings decided to go on a 13-2 run and open up their biggest lead of the half at 36-28 with just under two minutes remaining. Tony Smith was able to roll one home with just under a minute left in the first but as the first half buzzer sounded the Saints found themselves in a 36-30 hole at home in the Greenhouse.
Seward opened the first three minutes of the second half by outscoring the Kings 14-6 to take a two point lead that they would never give back on the night. After stretching the lead to 6 Shaun Green was able to score on back to back possessions for the Kings to cut the lead to 2 but five points from Marky Nolen in the next two minutes would stretch the Saints advantage back out to 7 at 60-53. A short time later the Saints would extend the lead up to 13 on buckets from Robert Sigala, Donte McCarter, and Marcus James and the teams would play even through the gameís final 7 minutes as two Jon Tassin scores in the final minute would put the cap on a 86-73 win for the Saints.
Five Saints reached double figures on the night including 20 each from Marcus James and Tony Smith and 14 from wingman Jon Tassin. Smithís night didnít only include scoring however as the pre-season All-American pick dialed up 10 assists and 7 rebounds to go along with those 20 points in the win. Latiq Agard and Marky Nolen hooked up for a solid night down low for the Saints as the pair combined for 23 points, 14 rebounds, and 8 steals in the Saints victory.
The Saints knew they couldnít overlook a pesky Hesston team in their Saturday night matchup in the Greenhouse as the Larks played defending Jayhawk West Champions Barton to just eight points a night earlier. Unfortunately for the Larks, Seward came out to play, and play they did stacking up a double digit lead halfway through the first half and never looking back. Hesston kept it close early on but a 6-0 Seward run would push the lead to 16-7 six minutes into the game. The Saints would hit that 10 point lead as Donte McCarter slashed to the rim for two and would go up 16 a short time later on a Latiq Agard finish off the hands of Robert Sigala. Both teams would end the half shooting 50% from the floor but sadly for the Larks, the Saints got up 32 shots to their 18 as Seward lead 44-30 at the break. In the second half Tony Smith would splash down a three-pointer to but Seward up 20 with 11 minutes to go and later on Jon Tassin would score to put the home team up 24 at 76-52 with just under 6 minutes left to play. The Saints would give up a couple of buckets late to lose their 20 point lead but another mid 80ís offensive performance would give Seward the 85-67 win as time expired in the second half.
Coach Bryan Zollingerís squad showed their depth in this one as 6 Saints reached double figures, not including Friday nights star Tony Smith. Latiq Agard quieted some spectators skeptical about his repaired right knee with a typical Agard night scoring 25 points on 11 of 19 shooting to go along with 5 rebounds on the night. Donte McCarter scored 12 points and Jon Tassin scored 11 while Marcus James, Robert Sigala, and Marky Nolen scored 10 each. Nolen led the Saints with 7 rebounds while James pulled down 6 and Sigala and Smith led the team with 5 assists apiece.
After the 2-0 weekend the Saints will quickly have to refocus as their schedule this week will see them head to the College of Southern Idaho for a three game tournament Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in Twin, Falls. Seward returns home November 20th and 21st in the Billyís BBQ/Dayís Inn Classic where they will welcome Clarendon and Redlands to the Greenhouse.