For 25 minutes the Seward County Lady Saints had thoroughly dominated #14 Hutchinson Lady Blue Dragons Saturday night. The teams would play relatively hand in hand for the next 10 minutes before the Lady Dragons dominated Seward for the final 5 minutes of the game. Logic would say that Seward would come on top but things don’t always work on logic in sports and with that said, the Lady Saints would lose a 16 point second half lead to Hutch Wednesday night as the Lady Dragons finished with a fury to come out on top of a 62-59 decision to the disappointment of all wearing green in the Greenhouse in the first game of the second round of Jayhawk West Conference action.
Looking to redeem themselves after an embarrassing loss to open the conference schedule against the Lady Blue Dragons, Seward started well in this one as Morgan Skomal scored the game’s first basket on a dish from Mariah Lee and Hannah Rotolo would hit a free throw to put the Lady Saints up 3-0 two minutes in. Hutch would bounce back to scored 8 out of the next 11 points, including a pair of three pointers to take an 8-6 lead but the Lady Saints showed early that they were ready to go as Kayla Thomas hit a pair of shots to put Seward back on top. A rare Seward breakdown on the defensive end would lead to an easy bucket for the Lady Dragons but back to back three pointers from Ashlynn Knoll and Thomas would give the Lady Saints some momentum and the lead as they held a 17-12 advantage. After saying before Wednesday’s game that he and Hutchinson coach, and good friend Jon Ontjes, hadn’t done anything that each other hadn’t seen yet, Seward head man Toby Wynn must have kept something in the bag as he and his defense found a way to fluster the league’s top scoring team and his squad took advantage as the Lady Saints continued to build on their lead as Hutch went scoreless for over six minutes and with under eight minutes to go in the half, Seward found themselves up 22-12. The Lady Dragons would jump back into the game as Jackie Patterson began to make her presence felt inside as Hutch cut the Seward lead to 24-20 with 4:30 to go in the half. After a scoreless stretch for both teams, Thomas would find Hanna Bognar on a screen and roll for Seward for two points to put them back up 6 and they would build on the momentum from that to extend their lead to 9 as they went to the half up 32-23. In the first half Seward would hold Hutchinson to just 21% shooting and more importantly won the battle on the boards 26-20 to help give them the 9 point cushion at the break.
The second half brought more good for the Lady Saints as Rotolo would connect from the top for a three pointer to give Seward a 12 point lead and after a Hutchinson free throw made it 35-24, Seward would score five straight with a hoop by Bognar and a three pointer from Knoll to give the Lady Saints a commanding 40-24 lead with 17:03 remaining in the game. Just when it looked like the Lady Dragons might be out of it, a five shot possession which included 4 offensive rebounds would lead to a basket and four Seward turnovers in five trips would lead to five more points for Hutch and with under 14 minutes left the Seward lead was now single digits at 40-31. The Lady Saints would snap out of their funk and would again look to be in good shape as they increased their lead to 10, 46-36 with 10:30 remaining. Following the games media timeout a dribble drive by Hutch would get them a basket and a Seward foul on a Lady Dragon three point attempt would result in three points and the lead was quickly slashed in half to 46-41. The teams would trade baskets to 50-45 with 6:48 to go before the Lady Saints would connect on three free throws to again give them breathing room as they led 53-45 with 4:30 remaining. Two straight empty possessions for Seward would open the door for Hutchinson and the Lady Dragons would take the opportunity to walk right back into the game as a pair of midrange jumpers cut the lead to four and a Seward air ball would lead to a transition three pointer for Hutch to make it a one point game, 53-52 with 2:30 to go. Thomas would drive and score to put Seward up three on the Lady Saints next trip down the court but the Lady Dragons would follow that with a right wing three from their leading scorer Alysse Barlow to tie the game up at 55 all. The teams would trade a pair of free throws as the clock ticked under two minutes and with under a minute to go two Seward turnovers would prove costly as Hutchinson would get to the free throw line and make 2 of 4 chances to take a 59-57 lead with 34 seconds left on the clock. With the game on the line, the Lady Saints would turn the ball over for a third straight time and would then be forced to foul where Hutch made a pair of free throws to go up four with 20 seconds left. Knoll would cut the lead in half with a pair of free throws to make it 61-59 and after Barlow hit just one of two free throws with a chance to seal the game, the Lady Saints had a shot to send the game to overtime with 6 seconds left. They quickly moved the ball up the floor and Knoll got a decent look with Hutchinson defenders all around her but the shot missed just short and the Lady Saints would fall 62-59 in yet another gut wrenching loss for the young Seward County team.
Seward won nearly every statistical battle on the night including rebounding (46-43), shooting (38%-26%), and free throw shooting (68%-67%) but was once again stung by the turnover bug that struck 21 times, including 3 times in the final minute to ultimately cost them a chance at the win. The Lady Saints held Hutchinson, a team who has scored over 100 three times this season and leads the region in scoring by nearly 10 points per game, to 26% shooting on the night which was a season low and have now held the Lady Dragons to two of their three worst shooting nights of the season but have come up on the short end of both decisions. Knoll had a career high 23 points as well as 10 rebounds, recording her 4th double-double of the season while Thomas finished with 11 points and 7 rebounds for Seward in the defeat. Bognar played well on the inside for Seward, going 3 for 3 from the field while scoring 6 points, grabbing 5 rebounds, and also blocking 5 shots.
The loss is a big blow to the Lady Saints who fall to 15-8 overall and 5-4 in Jayhawk West Conference play. The loss is Seward’s first of the year at home in conference action and drops them into 5th place in the standings. Their road will not get any easier in their next game on Saturday night as they now face the daunting task of taking on a red hot Barton Lady Cougars team who has won 7 out of their last 8 games overall and 9 straight games at home in Great Bend.