The Seward County Saints weren’t buying into the old cliché that ‘this game doesn’t mean anything’ Saturday night as they took on the 15th ranked Butler Grizzlies in the Greenhouse on Sophomore Night. While Butler already had a share of the conference title clinched and the Saints were locked into the 3rd seed in the West win or lose, the two teams came out ready for a battle and that was what they both got as the game went down to the wire with Seward coming out on top of the 80-75 decision to end the Grizzlies 12 game win streak.
The start of this one didn’t exactly play out to script as most expected a high flying offensive explosion early as the region’s top two scoring teams went head to head. It was anything but that for the first 7 minutes of the game as the game was tied at just 4 apiece as the 13:00 mark hit the clock. Latiq Agard would give the Saints their first lead of the contest at 6-4 at the 12:44 mark and after a Butler free throw, Donte McCarter would tack onto the lead with a three pointer to put Seward up 4. The Grizzlies would go on a 7-0 run in the next two minutes and take a 3 point lead of their own but Robert Sigala would connect from deep to end the run and tie the game back up at 16. The Saints would take over the rest of the half and would find themselves up 9 after a bucket and a foul on Marcus James. With the score now 32-26 after a pair of free throws for Butler, Agard hit a 10 foot jumper as time wound down in the half and the Saints went up 8, 34-26 as the teams broke for the locker rooms. The Saints shot 46% and held Butler to just 33% shooting in the first 20 minutes.
The Saints pushed the lead to double digits early in the 2nd half on a finish from James assisted by Sigala. However, Butler would go on a mini 6-0 run, capped by an alley-oop dunk by Caleb Walker to slice the lead to just 4 at 38-34. Marky Nolen would put Seward up 7 shortly with a hoop and a foul but the Grizzlies went on another 7-0 burst to erase the lead and tie the game at 41 each. The teams would go back and forth for the next 3 minutes and the game would remain tied at 47 with 12:05 to go. Offense wouldn’t lack in the next 5 minutes and Butler showed why they were the top team in the Jayhawk West as the Grizzlies quickened the tempo of the game with the Saints a step behind as they pushed out to a 9 point 66-57 lead on a three pointer from Kyle Sloan. Just when it looked like the Saints were going to go down easy, they held Butler scoreless for nearly 3 minutes while going on a 10-0 run to retake the lead 67-66 as Sigala became hot. The sophomore from Liberal scored 9 of the 10 Seward points in the run including a three pointer falling into the Seward bench to bring the game to within one. The teams would trade baskets in the next 2 minutes and with 2:43 remaining on the clock, the game was tied for the 6th time, 72-72. After a foul was called on Butler’s DuShawn Brooks on the inbound, the sophomore apparently said something to the disliking of the man in stripes and was issued a technical foul for his actions. The foul and the technical foul sent Agard to the line for 4 free throw attempts, 3 of which he connected on to put the Saints up 75-72. Butler would miss three pointers twice on their next possession and Agard was again able to find the bottom of the net on a jumper to put the home team up 5 at 77-72 with 1:10 to go. The Grizzlies Anthony Cousin would drive coast to coast on the ensuing play and it was again a 3 point game 77-74. That was as close as Butler would get however, as another free throw from Agard and a steal by Nolen who fed it ahead for a slam by Sigala would seal the deal for the Grizzlies as the Saints would come out on top 80-75. Seward shot 56% in the second half compared to just 46% for the Grizzlies and the Saints cashed in 16 of 22 free throw attempts to 11 for 16 from the guys from El Dorado. The win snapped the 12 game winning streak Butler came into the game holding but thankfully for the Grizzlies, Hutchinson was handled by Cloud County to allow the Griz to hang onto their #1 seed coming out of the West for the Region VI Tournament.
Statistically for the Saints Latiq Agard scored 21 on 7 of 11 shooting and also dished out a team high 5 assists while Robert Sigala continues to gain steam coming down the stretch, topping his previous career high set last week with a new career high 21 Saturday. Sigala finished the game shooting 7 for 9 from the field and a perfect 5 for 5 from the three point line in the win. Marky Nolen put in 29 minutes of hard work down low for the Saints scoring 10 points and grabbing 8 boards while Donte McCarter finished in double figures as well with 10.
The win pushes the Saints to 22-8 on the season and 11-5 in Jayhawk West Conference play where they will finish 3rd heading into the Region VI Tournament. The win gives the Saints an interesting distinction as they have now beaten the top 2 teams in the Eastern Division of the Jayhawk Conference (Cowley, Coffeyville), as well as having beat every single team in the Western Division this season with the win over Butler. The Saints will kick off the Region VI Tournament at home on Tuesday against Kansas City Kansas CC who finished 6th in the Jayhawk East this season. A win would send the Saints to Wichita where they would face the winner of the Cowley/Pratt game at 5:00 Saturday evening at Koch Arena. Free tickets for Tuesday’s play-in game can be found at Seaboard Foods (1120 N. Washington), Stu Emmert, Pizza Hut, and First National Bank in Liberal.