The Seward County Lady Saints starting lineup for Wednesday night’s game against #11 Hutchinson was the following: Rachel Barnes, Megan Lassley, Nadia Rosario, Vaneza Junior, and Sheila Washington. So what, you might ask. Well the what is that all five of those Lady Saints were involved in the Seward/Hutch game last season that ended the Lady Saints season in Koch Arena in Wichita in the Region VI Championship game putting them just one game short of the National Tournament in the 53-51 loss. Let’s just say revenge was on their mind and revenge was what they got in the tune of a 53-43 win over their rivals in the Greenhouse Wednesday night.
Reigning NJCAA National Player of the Week Rachel Barnes came out of the gates hot scoring the game’s first 7 points to give Seward a 7-0 lead just 3 minutes in but the Lady Saints wouldn’t score a point in the next 5 minutes and Hutch would pull back to even at 7-7 with just under 13 minutes to play in the half. Both offenses would struggle in the 5 minutes after that and would manage just 2 points apiece to keep the score deadlocked at 9 with 8 minutes to play in the half. Britney Nuzum would give Hutch their first lead of the game with 6:53 remaining in the half but a big 3-pointer from Kendra Spresser just a minute later would give Seward the lead back for good at 12-11. Spresser then sank a pair of free-throws to open the lead to 5 minutes later but Hutch would battle back to score the half’s final four points go make it a 19-18 Seward lead going into the break. Obvious by the score, both teams struggled offensively in the first half with Seward shooting 24% from the field and Hutch shooting just 17% in the game’s first 20 minutes.
The second half started the same way that the two teams ended the first with both baskets having lids on them. Four minutes in the game was deadlocked at 23 before Rachel Barnes knocked down a pair of free throws to re-give Seward the lead with her 14th and 15th points of the game. A Nadia Campbell free throw would bring the Lady Dragons back to within one but the next 5 minutes would belong to Seward as they went on an 8-0 run to open up the lead to 34-25 and seemingly take a strangle hold on the game with just 11 minutes left in the contest. Hutch sophomore stars Heather Robben and Ariella McGhee weren’t going to do down without a fight however and went on a 6 point run of their own to cut the lead to 3 with just 7 minutes remaining. A pair of big free throw makes from Sheila Washington would push the Seward lead to 5 and a midrange jumper from Megan Lassley would move it to 7 on the next possession but Hutch would again go on a 6-0 run to bring the game back to nearly even at 40-39 Seward with 4 minutes to go. As the saying goes, when the going got tough, the Lady Saints got going and outscored the Lady Dragons 13 to 4 in the final four minutes of the game highlighted by 6 points from Barnes and 4 points from Lassley to help seal the 53-43 upset win for the gals in green. Both teams shot the ball better in the second half with Seward hitting on 36% of their shots and Hutch on 41% but a dismal first half for the Lady Dragons doomed them as they finished the game shooting just 27% from the field. A credit to the Seward County defense, the conference’s best shooting team was held to 20 points under their previous season low in points and went just 2 for 17 from the three point line after bombing away for 11 triples in their last game. Seward held preseason All-American and 58% three point shooter coming into the game Heather Robben to just 1 of 7 from beyond the arc and 9 points, 7 under her season average in the contest. With rebounding and turnovers nearly even, the Lady Saints also helped themselves by going 17 of 22 on the night from the charity stripe while Hutch was able to connect on just 13 of 25 shots from the line including 4 of 12 from center Naudia Campbell.
Rachel Barnes came up big multiple times during the game when the Lady Saints needed her, scoring a game high 22 points and also pulling down a game high 12 rebounds, including 6 on the offensive end. Kendra Spresser found her way into double figures for the 3rd straight game with 11 points and Nadia Rosario had her second solid game inside for the Lady Saints with 9 points and 6 rebounds.
The win is the second straight for the Lady Saints over a team ranked inside the NJCAA’s top 15 and propels them to 9-0 on the season and an all-important opening night win in Jayhawk West Conference play. Seward will next take on Barton County in Great Bend on Saturday at 6:00 and will see their next home action come next Friday night, the 11th, when they match up with perennial power Northeastern Junior College in the Greenhouse at 6:00.