As if going to Concordia to play Cloud County wasn’t hard enough as it is, Saturday night the Seward County Saints had to go in and play the T-Birds who were maybe the hottest team in the conference having won three straight going into the contest. The Saints however, weren’t going to let them make it four and battled through some adversity to come out on top 72-67 in Bryant Gymnasium.
The first half of this one was pretty even as the two teams battled back and forth throughout the first 20 minutes of the game and saw just a one point differential at halftime as the Saints held a 28-27 lead. Seward hit 46% of their first half shots to Cloud’s 41 but the Saints left some points at the charity stripe going just 7 for 13 from the line. The T-Birds also kept themselves close by hitting the offensive glass hard and forcing a number of Saint miscues on the offensive end.
Cloud came out hot in the second half and took a 7 point lead just 5 minutes in as they flipped the script on the Saints. The T-Birds would push the lead to double digits halfway through the second period but just when it looked like the Saints were out of it they put together an 11-0 run to retake the lead with just under 8 minutes to go. The last 8 minutes of the game were close with both teams battling hard to try and take an advantage late but Seward’s pressure defense forced a number of turnovers down the stretch and solid late free throw shooting would give the guys in green a 5 point win as time expired. Seward got to the free throw line 30 times in the second half alone, capitalizing on 25 of those attempts. The Saints were also able to hang on thanks to the T-Birds struggles from the outside as a team that somewhat lives or dies on the 3 ball went just 2 for 13 from beyond the arc in the second half and 3 of 20 in the game.
The Saints were led by Donte McCarter who scored 23 points thanks in large part to getting to the free throw line a school record 19 times, knocking down 16 of those. Also finding his way to the charity stripe often in the contest was Latiq Agard who got there 16 times, 4th most in school history, converting on 12 of those tries and finishing with 20 points. Jon Tassin finished a nice night with 13 points and 6 rebounds and Marky Nolen chipped in with 7 points.
With the win, the Saints pick up their 20th win of the season compared to just 7 losses and move to 9-4 in conference play with a solid hold on earning a home playoff game with just 3 regular season contests to go. They will enjoy their only week off of the season before hitting the court again Saturday for Homecoming as they take on a Dodge City team that they definitely owe a little revenge to after the Conqs won by 13 in the two teams first meeting on their home court 3 weeks ago. Saturday’s buyout sponsor is Pizza Hut with free tickets available at both Liberal locations.