Saturday night, the 9th ranked team in the NJCAA and 1st place team in the Jayhawk West Conference, the Seward County Saints traveled the long road to El Dorado to take on a 7-13 Butler Grizzlies team that was by themselves in 9th place in the conference. One year ago, the Saints did nearly the same thing after a #13 ranking was put next to their name as they traveled to last place Colby and were shocked by the Trojans. Deja vu just about happened Saturday against the Grizzlies as Butler led much of the game before the teams tussled in the second half sending the game to overtime where Seward escaped with a 78-74 win.

After suffering their first loss in almost 2 months to Garden City Wednesday night, the 9th ranked Seward County Saints looked as if they were still under the trance of the Busters as they opened their game Saturday night against last place Butler. The Grizzlies were getting whatever they wanted early while the Saints were making it tough on themselves with 10 turnovers in the first 9 minutes of the game. At the midway point of the first half it was 21-9 Butler as the Grizzlies were lighting it up for 9 of 13 shooting, good for 69%. The Saints found themselves down by as many as 13 when Butler scored to go ahead 27-14 with 7:30 remaining and the guys in green had looks of disbelief on their faces as they looked for answers. Coach Bryan Zollinger got his team going out of a timeout and Seward turned it up a notch defensively to allow themselves to get back into the game. The Saints allowed just 3 Butler points in the final 7:30 of the half while cutting the Grizzly lead to 30-28 before the break. The stat sheet at the half was an interesting one as Butler shot 63% in the period but turned the ball over 19 times and gave up 10 Seward offensive rebounds while still managing to hold onto a 2 point lead. The Saints finished the half shooting just 37% and had 14 turnovers of their own but scored 16 points of Grizzly turnovers to keep themselves afloat.
The Grizzlies again controlled the tempo to begin the second half, slowing the Saints high powered offense to a crawl as they held the lead for the first five minutes of the half. Seward finally started to get their footing later in the period and took their first lead of the game at the 13:38 mark when Deverell Biggs scored on a circus shot in the lane to put them up 44-42. The Saints used the momentum to go on a 8-1 run to take a 50-43 lead at the media timeout and continued the burst after the break as they went on top 56-45 with under 7:30 remaining. Seward looked like they were over the hump and on the right track as they held a 13 point lead with 5:16 to go and the Grizzlies top 3 guards all on the bench fouled out of the game. The Saints still led comfortably 66-54 with 4:45 left but the lead seemed to have gotten too comfortable as Seward stalled offensively and allowed Butler to go on a 6-0 run to cut the Saints lead in half with 2:30 to go and made it a four point game, 66-62 on a drive and score with 1:52 to go. Seward’s drought hit 4 minutes and Butler scored once again to make it 66-64 with under a minute to go and the Grizzlies finished their long comeback to tie the game at 66 with 31 seconds remaining. The Saints had the ball with a chance to go ahead with the regulation clock ticking away but a forced shot missed and Butler then had the ball with 3.9 remaining with a chance to win. A full court pass got behind the Seward defense and it looked like the Grizzlies were going to win it at the buzzer but Kaheem Ransom came flying in from nowhere to block the Butler shot with under a second to go and sent the game into overtime. In overtime it was Butler that struck first to take the early lead in the 5 minute sprint to the finish. Seward got to the line and took care of business to tie things back up and after trading two’s, took their first lead of the period as Biggs hit a free throw to make it 71-70. Two more free throws put the Saints up 74-71 with 1:15 remaining but a Butler hoop and defensive stop gave the Grizzlies the ball down by one with 38 seconds remaining. Inexplicably, the Grizzlies traveled, unguarded, on the ensuing inbounds and the Saints got the ball back where they then put it away at the free throw line in the final 30 seconds to win 78-74 and escape the hostel Power Plant with the ugly win.
The Saints picked it up offensively to finish the game shooting 42% after the dreadful first half and took advantage of 32 Grizzly turnovers to score 32 points in the win. The Saints turned the ball over 25 times themselves and recorded a season low 7 assists. Biggs was the star for the Saints, especially late, as the sophomore guard scored a game high 26 points to tie his career high while also ripping off 6 steals. Brice Jenkins quietly had a solid game in the victory as he finished with 14 points and 4 assists and knocked down 7 of 10 clutch free throws down the stretch. Ransom was the only other Saint in double figures as he finished with 11 and Edson Avila just missed a double double with 9 points and a matching 9 rebounds inside.
The Saints get back on track with their 18th win of the season to improve to 18-3 overall and remain in 1st place in the Jayhawk West at 6-1. They will wrap up the first half of conference play on Wednesday when they welcome the Hutchinson Blue Dragons to the Greenhouse for an 8:00 tip. The Saints and rival Dragons matchup has free tickets available courtesy of our buyout sponsor Sunflower Bank at their Liberal location.