The Seward County Saints went into this weekend’s short 2 game road swing to Central Kansas having won 11 of their last 12 games and at 6-1 atop the Jayhawk West Conference. After falling to Butler Saturday night in the Power Plant and to Hutchinson Monday night in the Sports Arena, the Saints come back home at 6-3 with their recent 10 game win streak the furthest thing from their mind.
Saturday night at Butler, Seward controlled much of the early part of the game, getting a 10-4 lead early and hanging on to the advantage until late in the first half. The Saints led 36-35 with just over a minute left in the first half when Butler erupted on a 7-0 run to lead the guys in green by 6, 42-36 going into the locker room at half. The momentum carried right into the second half as Butler strung together a 17-1 run midway through the half to blow open a 22 point lead and all but finish off the Saints bid to stay in 1st place in the Jayhawk West after the first round of play. Seward would make it a respectable final score but it was far too little too late as the Grizzlies took down the Saints 84-74.
Butler was sparked by Saint killer Caleb Walker who scored a season high 25 for the Grizzlies, his third straight double figure scoring effort against Seward dating back to last season. The Saints got strong games inside from Marcus James and Latiq Agard who scored 19 and 18 points respectively while guards Robert Sigala and Donte McCarter also found their way into double figures with 21 points combined. Seward was outrebounded 39 to 21 in the contest including 16 offensive rebounds for Butler. The Saints were in major foul trouble most of the game as Marky Nolen and Jon Tassin fouled out nearly halfway through the second half and James fouled out later on in the contest.
With the Butler game behind them, the Saints had a chance to start a busy three game week on the right track as they headed to the Sports Arena to take on rival Hutchinson Monday night. With a win the Saints would put themselves right back in first place in the Jayhawk West and in the driver’s seat for a conference crown. Unfortunately, Seward had a bad case of the Monday’s and came out of the battle licking their wounds and trying to right the ship as they open up a three game home stand Wednesday.
The game started well for the Saints as they looked to beat the 9th ranked team in the country for the second time this season as they took a 10-4 lead 6 minutes in with a combination of solid defense and a lackluster start from the Dragons. Seward pushed their lead to 9 as Tony Smith and Donte McCarter got to the basket on back to back possessions to make it 15-6 but it still seemed as if they might have missed an opportunity to make the lead even bigger as Hutch was simply out of sorts on the offensive end for the first 12 minutes of the game. The Saints would keep a 9 point lead with 6:44 to go when Steve Eck’s Blue Dragons snapped out of it and went on a 15-2 run in the next five minutes to erase the Seward lead and take a 4 point lead of their own with just over a minute remaining to play in the half. Smith would connect on a straight away three ball to cut the Dragon lead to 1 but as the horn sounded to end the first half the Saints lapsed on defense and gave an open three point look to Joe Mitchell who took advantage of the look at tickled the twine to put his team back up 4 at 26-22. The teams jostled for the first 5 minutes coming out of the break as Latiq Agard would trim the lead to 3 with a strong finish at the tin but that is as close as Seward would get as Hutch went on a 21-8 run through the middle part of the half to stretch their lead to a game high 16 points. The game would never get much closer as the Saints fell 62-48 as Hutchinson revenged an earlier loss in Liberal to win their 8th straight Jayhawk West game.
Seward was held 23 points under their previously low scoring game with the 48 point performance as they shot just 33% in the game and misfired on 16 of 19 three point attempts on the night. The Saints were also hampered by 18 turnovers to just 9 assists in the game and also foul trouble as the guys in green were whistled 21 times on the night to Hutch’s 13. Latiq Agard was the only Saint to reach double figures in scoring as he finished with 18 and 5 rebounds. Donte McCarter and Tony Smith chipped in 8 a piece but both struggled from the field going a combined 7 for 21 from the field and 2 for 13 from the three point line. Smith did have the best rebounding game of his career as he climbed high for 9 boards and Jon Tassin had 10 rebounds to go along with 7 points in the loss.
The Saints fall to 17-6 overall and 6-3 in Jayhawk West play as they sit in 3rd place in the conference with a chance to make up some ground with 3 straight games in the Greenhouse starting Wednesday. Wednesday night the defending conference champion Barton County Cougars will come to Liberal with tip off set for 8:00. Holiday Inn Express and the Southwest Times are the buyout sponsors with free tickets available at both of those locations as well as Days Inn, Hutch’s, and First National Bank.