Despite an unusually slow start, an almost unnoticed scoring error, a ruckus crowd going against them, and a good basketball team on the other side of the court, the #20 Seward County Saints moved to 6-1 in Jayhawk West Conference play and 18-3 overall Wednesday night by defeating geographical rival Garden City 72-65 thanks to a strong finish to keep them in 1st place in the conference standings. Neither team was particularly strong early and the two would scrap to a 30-30 tie at the break. Garden would have the advantage midway through the second half but the Saints would come back late thanks to an aggressive attack that led to a number of free throws where they would eventually salt away the game 72-65.
An ugly start from both sides is just what the Broncbusters of Garden City wanted as they knew that it would probably not be in their favor if they stood toe to toe and tried to trade punches with the high flying Saints. They got just that as both teams matchup zone defenses flustered the offensive flow of each other and Garden City would have themselves a 15-6 lead midway through the half. Seward would get things going though and after a three pointer from reigning Conference Player of the Week Jeremy Jones and midrange jumpers from Marquez Patterson and Marky Nolen the Saints were right back in the game at 15-13. Seward would eventually tie things up and the teams would remain close for the rest of the half, trading hard fought basket for hard fought basket. At the break the teams would go into the locker rooms back at square one with things deadlocked at 30-30.
With their home crowd fired up that their Busters were hanging in there with the 1st place Saints, the atmosphere in the Perryman Center became louder and louder as the second half minutes ticked by. Garden City would use that backing to jump ahead of the Saints early in the period but Seward wouldn’t let them get too far away. The Saints would find themselves down 52-49 midway through the half when mysteriously after a pair of empty possessions for each team, they were down 54-49 on the scoreboard. After the error was pointed out to officials and the scorer’s table, and a discussion ensued between the group with both teams stats keepers having the score at 52-49, the score was left at 54-49 because the official book had the score as so. Neither team scored in their next trips and the game was stopped again as the scorekeepers decided that they had in fact made a mistake and the score was corrected to the dismay of the unruly Garden crowd. With things back to order the Saints would turn up their aggressiveness on both ends of the floor. After forcing a number of low percentage opportunities for the Busters, the Saints would get the opposite on their side of the floor, getting to the free throw line with regularity. After knotting the game up at 60, a three pointer from Rafriel Gurthrie would put the Saints on top before a one handed thunderous dunk from Daveon Boardingham on an alley-oop from Jones stretched the lead to 5. Seward would salt the game away at the free throw line where they finished the half 23-36 and would go on to win 72-65 in front of a now disappointed Garden student section.
The Saints finished the game shooting 46 free throws on the night, the most that a Seward County team has shot in a contest since their 2008 National Tournament upset of Chipola. Seward would shoot just 36% in the game, their second lowest mark of the year, but would force 18 Garden City turnovers and would outscore the Busters 29-11 from the free throw line in the win. Jones again led the Saints with 21 points and 4 assists while Boardingham had a big night inside against the undersized Busters, scoring 16 points and grabbing 7 rebounds, including 10 points and 6 rebounds in the second half. Nolen was the nails that held the Saints together in the win however as the sophomore brushed off a number of inappropriate chants sent his way from the Garden crowd to score 13 points and rip down 18 rebounds, the most boards by a Saints player since Darko Cohadarevic set a school record with 24 early in the 2007 season. Nolen has now posted a double-double in 4 straight games dating back to the Saints win over Pratt on January 15.
The road win for the 20th ranked Saints moves them to 18-3 overall on the season and 6-1 in conference play with just one game left in the first round of conference action. Next up for the guys in green is a matchup Saturday night with defending Region VI Champions Butler who ended Seward’s season one year ago. Saturday will be Marky Nolen poster night so make sure to pick up your poster of Marky at any of the entrances and have him sign it at halftime of the Lady Saints game. First National Bank is our buyout sponsor for the night and will be providing free tickets at any of their Liberal locations throughout the week.