After moving up to #6 in the latest NJCAA National Top 25 Poll, the Seward County Lady Saints will have a short lived stay there as they lost a rare home game in the Greenhouse to South Plains 75-63 Friday night but came back to down Frank Phillips 60-38 in the final game of the Billy’s/Days Inn Classic to move their overall record on the season to 5-1.
It was a much anticipated battle Friday night in the Greenhouse as the 4-0 Seward County Lady Saints hit the court against the tradition rich South Plains Lady Texans. South Plains came out of the gates hot and just two minutes into the game had the Seward faithful quieted up 8-0. The Lady Saints would fight back as they held the Lady Texans scoreless for a three minute stretch in which they went on a 7-0 run to bring the gap to just one at 8-7 with 15:23 to go in the half. The two would go back and forth until the 10:48 mark when Kelsey Willson would tie the game at 14 with a midrange jumper and Morgan Skomal would take it to the basket and score two possessions later to give the Lady Saints their first lead of the game 16-14. Willson would break another tie moments later to put Seward up 19-17 but South Plains would take control of the game after that, going on a 21-4 run in a stretch of just five minutes to take a 15 points lead at 38-23 with a little over three minutes to go in the half. Seward would chip into the lead before the break but would still go into their locker room down 41-32.
Looking to make a comeback in the second half Seward would quickly cut the lead down to seven as the final 20 minutes of play opened up. Seven however, looked as if it was the Lady Saints un-lucky number for the night as they would cut the lead to seven three times in the next five minutes but wouldn’t be able to get any closer as they remained down 49-42 after a steal and score from Hannah Rotolo. Just as it looked as if the Lady Saints might be gearing up for a late game run, Seward was called for an offensive foul and South Plains’ Raely Parada banged home a three pointer from the wing to give the Lady Texans their largest second half lead at 63-49 and nearly all was said and done for Seward with just eight minutes to play in the game. Autumn Miller, Willson, and Rotolo would try to will the Lady Saints back into it with baskets but they would get no closer than eight during the final minutes of the game as they went down by the eventual score of 75-63.
Willson would lead the way for Seward with 29 points and 9 rebounds but it wasn’t enough as no other Lady Saint reached double figures in the loss. Rotolo and Miller finished with nearly identical stat lines with 9 points, 3 steals, and 2 assists each while Hanna Bognar was the only other Seward player to score more than 5 points in the game as she finished with 6. Seward was just 1 for 16 from the three-point line as a team in the defeat and committed 30 fouls, sending South Plains to the line 41 times compared to drawing just 17 themselves for a total of 24 free throws. The loss was a rare one indeed for the Lady Saints in front of their home crowd as it was just the 9th time in the past 18 seasons that Seward went down on the Greenhouse floor.
With 2-5 Frank Phillips opposite of them for Saturday night’s contest, it looked on paper at least, like the game was going to be a good chance for the Lady Saints to get their confidence back and things rolling in the right direction again. The problem was, someone forgot to tell the Lady Plainsmen that and as evident early, the Lady Saints were going to have a fight on their hands. Seward got off to a slow start and found themselves up just two 8-6 four minutes into the ballgame. After Ashlynn Knoll hit a shot at the top of the key to make it 10-6, the Seward offense would go cold outside of Mariah Lee as no Lady Saint other than Lee would scratch the scoreboard for a span of nearly eight minutes until Willson knocked home a three pointer to give Seward the lead back 17-15 with 7:34 to go in the half. Miller and Skomal would score on back to back possessions for the Lady Saints to put them up 21-17 moments later but Seward would not score again for the remainder of the half, finishing the first 20 minutes 0 for 8 from the floor as they went into the locker room up just one point at 21-20. The Lady Saints shot just 27% in the first half and turned the ball over 11 times but were saved by a strong defensive effort, allowing just 22% shooting from Frank Phillips and just a 2 for 7 half from the free throw line for the Lady Plainsmen.
As the second half started it was Lee vs. Frank Phillips as the Seward County forward put 5 points on the board and the Lady Plainsmen put 5 points up as a team in the first five minutes of action as Seward remained up by one 26-25. Erica Jones would hit a runner for Frank Phillips with 14:08 to go in the game to give the Lady Plainsmen a 27-26 lead but it might have just hit the wrong nerve for the Lady Saints as they would then go on a 12-2 run to take their largest lead of the game at 38-29 just past the halfway mark in the second half. A three pointer from Frank Phillips would draw them to within six but Seward would go on another burst, outscoring the Lady Plainsmen 9-0 to go up 15, 47-32. The Lady Saints kept control from there, hitting their free throws as the Lady Plainsmen tried to foul to get back into the game to no avail, as Seward went on to take the game 60-38 to move to 5-1 on the year.
Seward finished the game shooting 36% from the floor in the game including 45% in the second half while holding the Lady Plainsmen to just 25% overall in the contest and just 3 of 30 shooting from beyond the arc. The Lady Saints got a huge game from Lee who finished with 28 points and 8 rebounds while Knoll racked up a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds in the win.
The Lady Saints are now 5-1 on the season after their split in the classic and will travel to Garden City next weekend for the Thanksgiving Classic in the Perryman Center. There Seward will take on a pair of quality opponents in the Jayhawk East favorite Independence Lady Pirates on Friday followed by New Mexico JC on Saturday. Both games will be played at 1:30.