Wednesday night the Seward County Lady Saints headed up the road to Garden City to take on a Garden City Lady Broncbusters team that has been ravaged by chemistry problems of late and in a tailspin towards the bottom of the Jayhawk West Conference standings. However, with their problems apparently past them, they raced out to a 4 point lead on Seward in the first 20 minutes of play before the Lady Saints came back to take a 7 point lead late in the game. After executing with regularity the best they had in weeks, Seward would hit a dry spell for the final 4:45 of the game and their 7 point lead would begin to shrink and finally with just 2 seconds on the clock it would be gone as Garden City’s Bailey Hemmert hit an open 8 footer from the baseline to give the Lady Busters the 68-67 win.
So far this season it has been the Seward County defense that has led them to a 14-6 start to the year. After leading the region in scoring a season ago, the Lady Saints offense has been slowed to just 65 points per game this season. Wednesday night in the Perryman Center in Garden City however, the Seward offense was in high gear early on in their rivalry matchup with the Garden City Lady Broncbusters. The Lady Saints and Lady Busters would trade baskets through much of the first half with neither team taking more than a two possession lead. Seward would take it right at Garden City’s big front line led by 6’4 Marisela Rodriguez and would have success as Ashlynn Knoll finished the first half with 12 points while Mariah Lee pitched in 7 on 3 of 5 shooting. Unfortunately for Seward, Garden City was even hotter shooting the basketball as a Lady Saints defense that had given up just 33% shooting to their opponents on the season, allowed the Lady Busters to shoot 55% in the first half including 4 of 7 from the three point line and at the half it was the 1-5 Lady Busters who had the 43-39 halftime lead.
Both teams defenses would pick up in the second half and it was Seward’s resistance that was just a touch better as Hannah Rotolo caused havoc to the Garden City backcourt picking up steal after steal leading to instant offense for the Lady Saints to help them take a 62-60 lead with 7:00 remaining on the clock. The Lady Saints would build on their lead as Autumn Miller hit a three pointer and Kayla Thomas found Knoll inside for a short jumper to put Seward up 67-60 and looked to have them in control of the game with just 4:45 left. On the next Lady Buster possession Knoll and Miller would collide as both went in for a steal and it would create an easy 3 on 1 opportunity for Garden to which they picked up an uncontested layup to make the score 67-62. Seward would get methodical on the offensive side of the court for their next three trips and while the clock was draining away which was a good thing, their lead would as well as a Garden bucket would cut it to 67-64 with 2 minutes left in the game. The Lady Saints would get back into their offensive flow and would get two looks inside that had been falling all night but neither would touch the nylon and a Lady Buster hoop inside by Rodriguez would make it a one point game, 67-66 with less than a minute to go. Another chance inside for the Lady Saints would fall by the wayside and Garden City would have the basketball with 25 seconds left in regulation. After setting up a play following a timeout, the Lady Busters would call another timeout with 15 seconds left after not liking what they saw from the Seward defense. Out of the timeout Garden would be forced to shoot a long jumper with 8 seconds to go and it would miss its mark but a fight for the rebound would see the ball land out of bounds and a 50/50 call would go in favor of the home team as the Lady Busters kept the ball with 7 seconds left. Off the inbounds Hemmert would find her way open and as the clock ran down and would send up a shot from the right baseline with 3 seconds left that would find nothing but the bottom of the net to put Garden City up 68-67 with just 1.9 remaining. A well designed play would work to perfection for Seward as they looked to get the ball 94 feet and into the basket in just 1.9 seconds as Rodriguez ran over Rotolo on a screen but it would be just Garden City’s 6th foul and therefore the Lady Saints would not yet get to shoot the bonus free throws. Again with the ball at the opposite end of the court that they needed to be on after the foul and the timeout, the Lady Saints would be unable to even get the ball inbounds and would be called for a 5 second violation without giving themselves a chance to score and the Perryman Center would erupt as the Lady Busters went on to beat Seward for the first time since 2003, 68-67.
Seward would finish the game shooting 42% as a team but would allow Garden City to shoot an even 50% which marked by far the highest that they had allowed any opponent to shoot all season. Knoll would finish the game with 19 points and 5 rebounds while Lee wasn’t far behind with 18 of her own. Rotolo would chalk up a matching 8 points and 8 steals while Thomas ended the night with a career high 9 assists and just 1 turnover.
The loss is a costly one for the Lady Saints as they now fall to 4-3 and back in the pack in the Jayhawk West standings. Now sitting in a tie for 4th and 5th place, the Lady Saints path will not get any easier as they host the two teams on top of the conference standings at 6-1 on Saturday and Wednesday. Saturday night Seward will entertain Butler who will be coming in off of a big win against Cloud County Wednesday night while next Wednesday the Lady Saints will match up for the second time with rival Hutchinson on the Greenhouse floor. The buyout sponsor for Saturday nights tilt with Butler is First National Bank with free tickets available at any of their Liberal locations throughout the week. Wednesday night’s game with Hutchinson will have a number of special festivities centered around Seward County CC/Area Technical School being named the 33rd best Community College in the country recently and fans will have a chance to win t-shirts, mini basketballs and more with all prizes centered around the number 33.