It wasn’t the easiest game on the eyes unless you are a fan of missed shots and defense but the Seward County Lady Saints wrapped up their first half of Jayhawk West Conference play Saturday night in the Greenhouse with a 55-47, come from behind, overtime victory over conference leading Butler to put themselves right back in the race at 5-3. Seward would face a large deficit most of the first half before cutting it to a 22-20 game at the break and would then hold a sizeable lead of their own through the majority of the second half. However, another late game scoring drought of almost 5 minutes would put them behind the eight ball and they would trail by 4 with under four minutes to go and 3 with under 30 seconds remaining on the clock. Ashlynn Knoll would complete a three point play with 26 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime where the Lady Saints outscored the Grizzlies 12-4 to come away with the win.
Two teams desperately needing wins for two different reasons collided Saturday night in the Greenhouse in Liberal as the 6-1 Butler Grizzlies looked to come to town and complete the sweep of the top three teams in the Jayhawk West Conference after already defeating Hutchinson and Cloud County earlier in the season, while on the other side of the court, Seward County was looking to bounce back from a tough road loss in the final seconds of Wednesday night’s contest with Garden City with a victory over Butler to stay in the race and in the top half of the conference standings. It was Butler who looked hungrier early as they would keep Seward without a field goal for nearly four minutes to start the game while taking a 5-1 lead. The Lady Saints would jump back into things with an elbow jumper from Kelsey Willson to cut it to 7-5 with 14:31 to go in the half but the Seward offense would go ice cold for the next 4:30 as they would be held without a point as the Grizzlies pushed their lead to 14-5. Seward would start to find their way on offense but would give up matching buckets to Butler and would remain down by nine, 18-9 with 8:28 left in the half. Mariah Lee would connect on four straight free throws to get Seward back to within two possessions but the lid went back onto the North basket and Butler would again take advantage by pushing their lead to nine, 22-13 with 2:36 remaining in the period. Following a timeout, the Lady Saints would respond to the words of their Head Coach as Lee would score 6 points in a 7-0 Seward run to close the half and they would go into the break down just 22-20. While the two point deficit wasn’t what the Lady Saints were looking for after 20 minutes, the stat sheet would show that they were lucky to be in such a minimal hole as they shot just 22% in the half while being outrebounded 27-17 including 9 offensive rebounds for Butler in the first 20 minutes of action. On the positive side of things for Seward was their box-and-one defense that held the region’s top scorer, Abby Fawcett, who averaged 19 points per game coming into the night, without a single point in the first half and frustrated her to the point of standing near half court without moving on many of Butlers possessions.
Seward would carry over the momentum that they went into the half with, right into the final 20 minutes of play as a Morgan Skomal three pointer two minutes in would give the Lady Saints their first lead of the night. Fawcett would finally get on the board after grabbing a long rebound and hitting a pull up jumper on the break to give Butler the lead back but Seward would score the next 7 points to cap a 17-2 run and go ahead 30-24 after a drive and score from Autumn Miller. Seward’s defensive effort would continue to stymie the Butler attack and they would build onto their lead on the other end, taking their largest lead of the night at 37-28 after a finish on the inside from Lee with 8:31 remaining. As Lady Saints fans saw Wednesday night in the Perryman Center in Garden City, just when it looked like the gals in green were in control of the game with a big late lead, the brakes were put on their offense and that happened again Saturday night as Seward was held without a basket for nearly five minutes as Butler quickly erased the Lady Saints lead of nine and then took a four point lead of their own at 41-37 with 5:25 to go in regulation. Neither team would score during the next two minutes until Knoll buried a 12 foot turn around in the lane to make it a two point game with 3:22 left. Seward would force a tough three pointer from Butler on their next trip down the court and Hannah Rotolo would pull down the rebound and take it all the way to the hoop where she was fouled and hit one of two free throws to make it 41-40 in favor of the Grizzlies with 2:30 to go. The Lady Saints would get a pair of three point looks after a steal but wouldn’t be able to connect on either and Butler would take advantage by scoring on a give and go on their next possession to go up 43-40 with 1:39 remaining on the clock. Seward would fail to score on either of their next two chances and would look to be in big trouble as Butler had the ball with 47 seconds left and up by three. The Lady Saints decided not to foul and let the clock run down which proved to be a good choice as the Grizzlies inexplicably turned the ball over trying to get away from the Seward pressure and gave the Lady Saints one more breathe of air with under 30 seconds left in the game. With the game in the balance, the Lady Saints turned to Knoll who took a one on one opportunity and drove to the basket where she finished at the rim and was fouled where she would be sent to the line with a chance to tie the game up at 43. Knoll, Seward’s leading free throw shooter and who had only missed five free throws to that point in Jayhawk West Conference action, stepped up cool, calm, and collected and found nothing but the bottom of the net on her attempt and tied the game up at 43-43. The Seward defense would hold in the final 20 seconds and would get a stop to send the battle to overtime with things all knotted up at 43.
It was all Seward in the extra period as a frustrated Fawcett would be called for an offensive foul as she tried to wriggle free of the defense that had blanketed her all night, and Lee would nail both free throws from the foul to put the gals in green up 45-43. The teams would trade baskets before Miller canned a huge right wing three with 2:34 to go to put Seward up 50-45 and put the crowd and all the momentum on the home teams side. A pair of free throws from Rotolo would push the Seward lead to 7 with 50 seconds left and Butler would score just once more as the Lady Saints put the game away at the free throw line to go on to win 55-47.
In the game that defenfse was the name, Seward held all 13 Grizzlies that played in the game to single digits in scoring with Tiera Andrews leading the way with just 8 and their leading scorer Fawcett to just 2 points in the game on just 3 field goal attempts. Seward would be outshot by Butler 30% to 27% and would be beaten badly on the boards 58-45, including 20 offensive rebounds for the visitors from El Dorado, but Seward would turn the ball over just 13 times in the 45 minutes while Butler committed 24 turnovers on the night. Lee led Seward in scoring in the win, going for 17 points and 8 rebounds while Knoll and Skomal both chipped in 10. While Hanna Bognar didn’t score in the game for Seward, she made more than a small impact on the defensive side of the ball as the 6’2 freshman from Hungary had 9 blocked shots and 6 rebounds in 12 minutes of play against a Grizzlies lineup that featured pair of 6’4 players on the inside.
The end of the game marks the end of the first half of conference play where the Lady Saints now sit in a 4th place tie with Barton at 5-3 and 15-7 overall on the year. Seward’s road will not get any easier as they will take on the team that benefitted from them knocking Butler out of 1st place, the rival Hutchinson Lady Blue Dragons, who will come to the Greenhouse Wednesday night at 6:00 for the teams second meeting of the year. With the game falling on the 33rd day of 2011, during the game on Wednesday, SCCC/ATS will celebrate being named the 33rd best community college in the country by Washington Monthly with a number of festivities and giveaways including free t-shirts and mini-balls. Free tickets will be available courtesy of our buyout sponsor McDonald’s, at either of their Liberal locations through Wednesday.