When the 2010 Jayhawk Shootout schedule was released in the Spring of 2009, there were only a couple of games on the schedule that really caught your eye at first glance. They both involved Seward County and they were matchups with the two most dominate teams in Region VI in the decade, first the Cowley Tigers and second the 3rd ranked JUCO program of the decade, the Coffeyville Red Ravens.
Friday Seward matched up in a much anticipated tussle with Cowley after the two had traded ending each other’s seasons in the 08’ and 09’ campaigns. Cowley came out white hot and scorched the nets for 19 points in the blink of an eye and led 19-4 in just four minutes of play. Seward would not roll over though as they slowly worked their way back into the game before going on a run of their own to end the half and take a 12 point lead at the break. The Saints finished the half shooting 50% from the field while Cowley banged in 7 of 13 three point attempts but just 5 of 13 shots inside the three point line to fall behind by 12. Cowley started the second half just as they had started the game as Tyrus McGee and Lance Russell connected on shots behind the arc as Seward’s lead was cut to 6. The Saints continued to pound away inside , dominating the glass and the painted area against the conferences worst rebounding team and regained their 12 point advantage midway through the frame before going on to win by 16 as the final horn sounded.
The Saints shot 52% as a team in the 83-67 win as they pushed through a barrage of Cowley 3 balls, 12 to be exact, in the victory. Seward won the battle on the boards by doubling up the Tigers rebounding total 46-23 and managed 20 points off of 18 Cowley turnovers. The Saints allowed just 7 points on 2nd chance opportunities while making the most of theirs, scoring 22 points on 17 offensive rebounds on the night.
Tony Smith wowed the crowd looking on to the Saints win, scoring a game high 25 points and dishing out 13 assists while missing out on a triple double by just 3 rebounds as he had 7. Marcus James tied a season high with 20 points in the win and the muscle duo inside of Marky Nolen and Latiq Agard combined for 23 points and 16 rebounds on the afternoon.
The Saints road wouldn’t get any easier Saturday night as they would have the home team, the Coffeyville Red Ravens, winners of 8 Jayhawk East titles and 5 Region VI titles in the past 10 years. An up and down affair in the first half, both teams put on an offensive show with Seward connecting on 66% of their first half shots and Coffeyville on 52% of theirs. Jon Tassin, Marky Nolen, and Spencer Moore went a perfect 8 for 8 in the first half from beyond the arc and helped the Saints to a 55-43 halftime lead. Seward’s lead would grow to as much as 21 early in the second half but as is the case in the game of basketball, every team makes their run, and that Coffeyville did slowly trimming the Saints lead through the middle part of the half and in the waning moments found themselves down just 3 after a flurry of failed free throw attempts from the Saints. With under 10 seconds remaining on the clock and the Saints up three, Coffeyville had the ball and a chance to tie if they could connect on their 9th three pointer of the night. After passing the ball in and nearly double dribbling at mid court, Coffeyville’s Eric Hardaway got the ball in the corner to Justin Johnson who missed his three point attempt short thanks in part to a harassing Saints defense, and Seward came away with the rebound and pushed it up the court to run the clock out before the Red Ravens could foul and escape a hostel Nellis Hall with the 93-90 win.
The Saints lit up the nets from three point range to the tune of a 65% shooting percentage while struggling at the free throw line shooting just 50%. Coffeyville shot 51% in the game and outrebounded the Saints 39-31 but couldn’t stop Seward on offense as they gave up 60% shooting to the Saints in the loss.
Five Saints had over 13 points in the win as Donte McCarter’s 19 led the team followed by a career high 18 from Jon Tassin who nailed all 4 of his three point shots on the night. Marky Nolen scored 15, all in the first half, for the Saints by knocking down 6 of 7 shots, including all three of his shots from downtown. Latiq Agard remained solid in the post for Seward, scoring 14 points and grabbing three rebounds while Tony Smith again showed why he is one of the best players in the region by putting up 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists in yet another near triple double miss.
The wins were Seward’s 5th and 6th consecutively and they may now be looked upon as the team to beat in the region after having knocked off two of the top teams in the West and now two of the top teams in the East in their last six games with victories over Hutchinson, Barton County, Cowley, and Coffeyville in their last half-dozen ball games. They will hit the court again Wednesday in a game that should be much better than most people anticipated at the start of the season. The Saints will go to the always tough Beaver Dome in Pratt where they will face a Beaver squad that knocked them off last season there and comes in winners of 9 of their last 10, including a 9-0 mark at home. They will return home on Saturday where they will take on Cloud County at 8:00 in the Green House.