Last time the Seward County Lady Saints and the New Mexico JC Lady T-Birds hooked up it was a 25 point blowout win for the gals in green. Seward knew going into their 2009 Thanksgiving Classic in Garden City that this game against their opponents from Hobbs would be quite a bit different. The two teams played close in their first half with Seward opening a little bit of a cushion with 6 minutes left as Kendra Spresser picked off an errant T-Bird pass for a steal and score to put the Lady Saints up 7 at 26-19. Seward maintained the lead and took momentum into the half as they held a 39-29 lead and it looked as if maybe this game would resemble their opening weekend tilt the Lady Saints won 72-47. However, the halftime break served as a refresher for the Lady T-Birds and they came out in the 2nd half strong and midway through cut the Lady Saint lead to 55-52. That is when Seward decided that they had had enough of the close game and went on a 18-3 tear to go up 73-55 with a minute left before finishing the game off 73-60 at the final horn. All sounds well for Lady Saints fans until you look at the final numbers and find yourself scratching your head on how the final score ended up +13 in favor of Seward. New Mexico JC shot 62% from the field in the first half and 58% overall on the game compared to just 34% shooting from the victorious Lady Saints. Seward went 4-26 from the 3-point line, went just 4 for 14 in the second half shooting free-throws, and turned the ball over 21 times. They overcame those obstacles to get the win by outrebounding the Lady T-Birds 42-28 on the game including 24 offensive rebounds for Seward. In fact Seward made just 3 more field goals than the Lady T-Birds but took an astounding 36 more shot than New Mexico JC thanks to their work on the offensive glass. Another key stat was 34 New Mexico JC turnovers forced by the Lady Saints and 17 steals turning into a number of fast break opportunities for Seward.
Individually the Lady Saints were led by 12 points apiece for Kendra Spresser and Vaneza Junior while the duo also combined for 9 steals in the game. Rachel Barnes scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Sheila Washington also picked up 10 rebounds to go along with her 6 points. Nadia Rosario put u p 10 points and 8 rebounds and Morgan Skomal went 3 for 5 in the contest good for 8 points and 3 offensive rebounds.
The stage was set for a much anticipated matchup between the Lady Saints and the 10th ranked Western Nebraska Lady Cougars on Saturday. Seward came into the matchup a perfect 7-0 while Western Nebraska entered 7-1 after having gone to 9 of the last 13 NJCAA National Tournaments. While the game matched two heavyweights in the Midwest, it also featured one of the biggest size discrepancies ever seen on the hardwood as 5’2 Megan Lassley of Seward would meet 6’7 Thais Pinto of Western Nebraska in the paint during the course of the game, a 17 inch height difference. The game tipped off and an aggressive Lady Saints defense would help them get out to a 19-12 early lead on the Cougars in the Perryman Center. Seward would build on their lead and take a 9 point, 40-31 lead into the locker room at half behind a team high 10 points from Vaneza Junior. The Lady Saints would keep their 9 point distance through the first 6 minutes of the 2nd half but felt that gap tighten in the next 6 minutes as Western Nebraska cut the lead to 3 at 50-47 with 8 minutes left in the half. Kendra Spresser would nail her 4th 3-pointer of the game to cap a mini Lady Saints run to put them up 7 at 56-49 but a bucket inside for Western later on would dice the lead to just one at 62-61 with 20 second left. After breaking the Western Nebraska press Seward was fouled and sent to the line where they missed the front end of a 1 and 1 to give the ball back to the Cougars. Western raced the ball up the court and got the ball down low to Pinto who shuffled her feet and was called for traveling as she set the ball into the basket which would have put Seward behind. On the inbounds the Lady Saints were again fouled and sent to the line with 8.9 second left, where for the second straight possession rimmed out a 1 and 1 where Western grabbed the rebound and pushed it up the court again. With 5 second on the clock, Western Nebraska’s leading scorer in the game, Amber Kistler, sized up an 18 footer but was rejected by a flying Nadia Rosario on her shot. As the ball hung in the air Seward players were unable to corral it and eventually it was tipped back out to Kistler who this time had a look from a few feet closer with no Lady Saint defenders in the area. As she put the ball up it was almost as if a Hollywood movie was being shot. The rambunctious crowd was silenced, everyone on the court was frozen, the ball hung in the air for what seemed like eternity before eventually coming down, touching every inch of the iron and rolling off to give the Lady Saints a 62-61 thrilling win over the Cougars.
Again the stat sheet seemed to favor Western Nebraska in nearly every category as they outshot (41/33%), outrebounded (52/38), piled up 22 offensive rebounds, and swatted away 13 Seward shots but the key element again for the Lady Saints was their pesky defense that forced 30 turnovers highlighted by 16 steals to help come away with the win. Seward was led offensively by Kendra Spresser who nailed 4 3-pointers and finished with a career high 19 points. Megan Lassley filled up the stat sheet in the win, flirting with a triple-double while scoring 9 points, grabbing 8 rebounds, and dishing out 7 assists in the game. Rachel Barnes struggled from the floor but still managed 8 points to go along with 11 rebounds and Vaneza Junior finished the game with 10 points and 3 steals. While her numbers in the box score might not draw your attention, Nadia Rosario came up big in this one for the Lady Saints when they needed her scoring 8 points, grabbing 5 rebounds, while also getting it done on the defensive side of the ball most of the game against Pinto, swatting away a career high 5 shots and also notched 4 steals in the win.
The victories push the Lady Saints up to 8-0 where they will sit when they take on their arch rivals and defending Region VI Champion Hutchinson Lady Blue Dragons who will also come into the Greenhouse undefeated at 8-0 Wednesday night. The game will start at 6:00 with free ticket available thanks to Wednesday’s buyout sponsor, The Bank of Beaver City. Those tickets can be picked up at any Bank of Beaver City location or on campus at SCCC/ATS in the Athletic Office, Wellness Center, Front Desk, or the Bookstore.