After cruising into the Holiday break having won five straight contests, the Seward County Saints looked to get 2011 off to a similar start in Chanute last weekend but their task was going to be a tough one as they lined up against 9th ranked Missouri State-West Plains on Saturday before dancing with the host team, the Neosho County Panthers Sunday for the second time this season. The Saints dominated their contest against, then 13-1 West Plains, opening up as much as a 22 point second half lead before going on to win 90-78 on New Yearís Day and then erased a 10 point halftime deficit against Neosho in the second half on Sunday to come away with a 103-91 win to move to 12-2 on the season.
Following a three week layoff that saw Saints players travel to all corners of the country, it was a question on how the guys in green would come out to open 2011 on Saturday against a very talented #9 Missouri State-West Plains club in their opening game of Neosho Countyís New Years Classic. Seward would quickly show that there would be no rust on their motors as they raced out to a 44-34 first half lead, connecting on 53% of their shots from the floor while holding the Grizzlies to just 39% in the half. The Saints would stretch the lead to over 20 in the opening minutes of the second half and would hold a sizeable lead throughout as they went on to pull the upset over the Grizz 90-78.
Jeremy Jones led the Saints in scoring and rebounding as he finished with 22 and 6 while Rafriel Guthrie poured in 18 for Seward in the win. Marky Nolen scored 11 points and had 6 rebounds in 19 minutes of work and Daveon Boardingham scored 10 points in just 11 minutes. Phil Hawkins extended upon his team lead in assists with 6 to lead Seward in the game while also chipping in 7 points and 5 rebounds.
In a Sunday afternoon matinee affair, the Saints locked up with Neosho County for the second time this season after embarrassing the Panthers 102-59 in the opening weekend of the season. Neosho looked bound and determined to not let that happen again and looked unstoppable on the offensive end of the court in the first half, shooting 61% including draining 10 three pointers en route to taking a 56-46 lead into the locker room at half. The Saints would flip the script on the home team in the second half, connecting on 23 of 36 shots to quickly erase the 10 point deficit and build a lead of their own before going on to win by double digits 103-91.
The Saints shot a season high 59% as a team in the win and also drilled 10 of 18 three point attempts, good for 56%, the highest a Seward team has shot from the three point line since hitting 11 of 17 in last seasonís Jayhawk Shootout against Coffeyville. Jones shattered his previous career high of 26 with 32 points in the win, as he found the bottom of the net on 13 of 19 shots while also dishing out a team high 5 assists. Guthrie was again second to Jones in scoring for Seward as he reached double figures for the 11th time in 14 games, scoring 19 points in the victory. Hawkins was an efficient 7 for 8 from the floor, good for 17 points while Boardingham chalked up his 3rd double-double of the season with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
The pair of wins push the Saints winning streak to 7 and moves their overall record on the year 12-2. Sewardís win streak will be put to a stiff test Wednesday night as they travel to Hutchinson to take on the #1 team in the country, the 14-0 Hutchinson Blue Dragons in the Sports Arena at 7:30. Hutch moved to #1 in the polls for the first time since 1975 today while Seward jumped into the nationís top 25 for the first time this season as they check in at #25 as they prepare for the showdown with the Dragons on Wednesday.