Things didnít look real promising for the Seward County Saints for the first 35 minutes of their Jayhawk West Conference opener against #7 and 14-0 Barton Wednesday night in the Kirkman Center in Great Bend. A sluggish Seward team found themselves down by 12 at the halftime break and after cutting the Cougar lead to one early in the second half, went into a funk to fall back behind by nine as the midway point of the second half hit. However, after erasing the Barton deficit and taking their first lead since the opening minutes with 4:44 to go, the Saints owned the final minutes of the tussle, leaning on sophomores Daveon Boardingham and Deverell Biggs who combined for 32 second half points to lead Seward to a 73-67 upset win to hand Barton their first loss of the 2011-2012 campaign.

A vastly improved Barton squad wasted no time in racing out to an 18-8 lead on the Saints just seven minutes into action. The Saints hung around and after back to back baskets from Kaheem Ransom and Corieon Pearson, Seward had crept back to within four at 21-17 with 9:35 remaining in the half. However, just when it was looking up for the Saints, a four minute scoring drought hit and allowed the Cougars to go on a 10-0 run and before they knew what hit them, Seward was in a 31-17 hole with under 5:30 to go in the half. The Saints were able to get their offense going but their defense faltered and they were able to cut the Barton lead by just two as the half came to a close and saw the Cougars hit the break with a 38-26 advantage on the scoreboard. The Saints shot just 39% in the first half and saw their two biggest stars in Boardingham and Biggs go scoreless in the first 20 minutes.
Whatever Head Coach Bryan Zollinger said to the squad in the locker room at half worked because the Saints came out like gangbusters, quickly erasing the big Barton advantage with an 11-0 run to open the period thanks to a pair of early buckets from both Boardingham and Biggs. It was 3:51 into the half when Barton finally put points on the board to push their lead to 40-37 and it would spawn a 9-1 run for the Cougars that saw the Saints go without a field goal for nearly seven minutes. Boardingham broke the dry spell for Seward with a hoop and a foul for a three point play to make it 47-41 with 10:17 to go in the contest. Barton went back up by 8 with an answer on their next possession but a corner three for Sewardís Ransom, a steal and score from Biggs, and then a hard fought finish inside by Irvin Hollinger again made it a one point game at 49-48 with 8:25 left. The teams picked up their pace offensively and jockeyed for position, going back and forth to stay separated by just one point as they hit the 6 minute mark where the score was 55-54. A Barton free throw made it a two point game before Hollinger connected with Boardingham inside for a layup to tie the game at 56. With momentum on their side the Saints made their run. Biggs scored on a runner to give Seward their first lead since the opening minutes of the game and the Saints sophomore buried a three on their next trip down the court to put Seward on top by five 61-56. Barton closed the gap to one with 2:24 left when an errant Saints pass ended up turning into a dunk on the other end to make it 63-62. Thatís when the defending conference champs dug their heels in and made a statement that they were ready to make another run this season. Edson Avila hit an off balanced shot to put the Saints up three and Seward stopped Barton on their next three possessions to keep it a three point game. Forced to foul with under a minute left, the Cougars sent the Saints to the free throw line where they knocked down six straight shots from the charity stripe to build their lead to five and salt the game away before Boardingham finished his dominating half with an exclamation mark, picking up a steal and hammering it down for a dunk to end the game and give the Saints the 73-67 win.
After struggling to just 39% shooting in the first half, the Saints hit on 56% of their second half tried as well as capitalizing on 17 of 20 free throw attempts in the final period to come away with the six point win. Boardingham showed why he is one of the top big men in the country, completely taking over the second half of the Saints win, scoring all 19 of his points in the final 20 minutes and finishing with a 19 point, 11 rebound double-double. Biggs was equally as impressive for Seward in the second half, scoring all 13 of his points in crunch time after battling early foul trouble that kept him scoreless in the first half. Pearson hit on 4 of 6 from the floor and had 11 points in the win and Ransom scored 10 points and had 4 rebounds before fouling out of the game late. Every Saint player to see action in the game had at least 4 points and 2 rebounds in the victory.
The upset win over the #7 Cougars pushes the Saints to 13-2 overall on the 2011-2012 campaign and gives them an unprecedented 6th straight win over their rivals from Great Bend, including 4 in a row on Bartonís home floor. The loss was the Cougars first of the season as they fall to 14-1 on the year. Next up for Seward is their home conference opener on Saturday when they host the upstart Colby Trojans at 8:00 in the Greenhouse. Tickets can be picked up free of charge thanks to our buyout sponsor Billyís at their location in the Liberal Plaza or at either Hutchís location in Liberal. Along with a double header of Jayhawk West Conference hoops on the slate for the night, the Perryton PIPís will be performing at halftime of the Womenís game, the Saints will announce their inaugural Hall of Fame class between games, and the Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Haskell, Stevens, and Seward counties will be recognized at halftime of the Menís game.