If offense is what you were looking for, Garden City was the place to be this weekend as the potent offense of the Seward County Saints took on the explosive Clarendon Bulldogs and the upstart Highland Scotties in a pair of matchups at the Perryman Center. Friday afternoon the Saints outlasted the Bulldogs 120-113 in a back and forth game while Saturday the Jayhawk East’s Scotties got the best of the Saints 96-90 to hand them their first loss of the season.
With Seward County coming in averaging 110 points per game and Clarendon entering the contest putting up over 123 points per game, there was no secret what kind of game the Saints and Bulldogs matchup would be Friday afternoon in the Perryman Center in Garden City. It did not disappoint as the free shooting Clarendon club would knock down 11 of 29 first half three point attempts and the Saints would connect on 50% of their shots overall to take a 58-53 lead into the half.
Thinking that the second half couldn’t get any better for offensive aficionados, the two teams put up even more points in the final 20 minutes. After leading by as many as 11 in the first half, the Saints lulled somewhat as the first half came to a close and the second half started and found themselves in a hole as the midway point of the second half hit. Down by 7, Seward closed the half on a 35-20 run and after a late surge on both the offensive and defensive end, would come away with a 120-113 win.
Seward hit 61% of their second half shots and 54% of their shots overall in the contest while ‘holding’ the high-flying act of Clarendon to just 41% shooting. The Bulldogs did connect on 19 three point attempts overall in the game but hoisted up 54 long balls for a final connection rate of 35%. To put Clarendon’s shooting numbers into prospective, their 54 three point attempts in the game were just one less than the Saints had taken combined in their first three games of the season, including the win over the Bulldogs.
The Saints finished the game with six players in double figures including Jeremy Jones who led the team with 24 points and 8 assists. Marquez Patterson scored 23 points and picked up 3 steals while Rafriel Guthrie led the Saints late charge and finished with 22 points and 8 rebounds. Daveon Boardingham had the best game of his young Seward career with 15 points and 13 rebounds while Marky Nolen joined him in the double-double club with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
The Highland Scotties were next up on the Saints schedule and while on paper in the preseason the matchup didn’t look like more than another cakewalk for Seward against one of the bottom half teams in the Jayhawk East, this year’s version of the Scotties had surprised many with a 4-1 start and were locked in to surprise one more team as they stepped on the court Saturday against the Saints. Highland controlled the tempo of the game from the start and held a 15-11 lead midway through the first half after a 5-0 run. The Saints would come back and tie the game on buckets from Nolen and Jones to make it 19 all moments later but Highland would rebound with an old fashioned three point play from Jamar Gulley to take a 22-19 lead. Remaining up three after the teams traded baskets, the Saints would make their run. Seward would tie the game up after a free throw from Nolen and a long jumper from Jones to make it 22-22 and wouldn’t stop there. The Saints would finish a 10-0 run with a strong finish inside from Nolen and would look in control, now up 31-24. The Scotties however, just wouldn’t go away and went on a 12-2 spree of their own to retake the lead and used the momentum to take a three point, 47-44 lead into the half. Seward connected on 49% of their first half shots but allowed the Division II Scotties to make 54% of their attempts and get to the free throw line 17 times, to which they cashed in 14 points.
The Saints would remain a step behind the Scotties most of the second half and could not seem to get that much needed defensive stop to gain momentum. But, after getting a steal and score from Jones, Seward found themselves on top 86-85 with just 1:55 to go and looked to have regained the confidence that their fans in green had seen from them all year. The lead would be short-lived however and Highland would continue to execute on their end of the floor at a staggering pace and after a corner fade away three pointer from DeAndre Upchurch, the little hope the Saints had left was dashed as they would go onto lose 96-90, dropping their first game of the season. Highland shot 67% from the field in the second half and 60% overall on the game, the highest opponents shooting percentage in Head Coach Bryan Zollinger’s tenure with the Saints.
For the first time all season the Saints had less than four players in double figures in a game. Nolen had arguably his best game of the season with 24 points and 10 rebounds, including connecting on all 11 free throw attempts in the game while Jones had his second straight 24 point effort for Seward in the loss. Guthrie again tried to will the Saints back late in the game and finished with 19 points on 7 of 12 shooting but it wasn’t enough in the 6 point defeat.
The Saints will look to bounce back this weekend in a pair of much easier contests as they square off with OPSU’s JV squad on Friday night at 8:00 in the Billy’s/Days Inn Classic and hit the court again at 8:00 on Saturday against Labette who has failed to beat an NJCAA opponent yet this season. Free tickets for this weekend’s classic are available at Billy’s Mexican Grill as well as the Days Inn and Holiday Inn hotels in Liberal.