With 1st place Seward County and 9th place Pratt locking up on Homecoming night in the Greenhouse Saturday night, it wasn’t expected to be much of a game. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, the Saints had a dogfight on their hands with the Beavers and after a big early run for Pratt, they led throughout before Seward broke through in the final minute to come away with a heart stopping 58-55 win.

Things started much as expected for the 15th ranked Saints. Their defense held Pratt scoreless through their first five possessions while they executed to perfection, building a 7-0 lead on a three pointer from Deverell Biggs and drives and scores from Kaheem Ransom and Brice Jenkins. The Beavers finally scored but Seward continued to put it on them. Seward pushed all the way out to a 16-2 lead at the 13:57 mark of the first half before Pratt even knew what hit them. The Saints were on top 18-4 and looked like they were going to make a laugher out of their second meeting with the Beavers when Pratt dug their webs in and showed otherwise. They quickly went on a five point run to make it an 18-9 game and as the Saints stalled on offense the Beavers got to within three at 18-15. Seward’s drought without points hit four minutes as Pratt tied the game at 18 with 9:20 remaining in the half and the Beavers weren’t done there. Pratt completed an unbelievable 23-0 run in front of a silenced Greenhouse crowd to take a 27-18 lead on the home team. Seward finally broke their scoreless streak with 3:26 to go, a span that stretched 10:07 on the clock and it wasn’t until Briston White scored on a fast break with 1:23 remaining in the half that the Saints put in a field goal. When it was all said and done, the Saints went from the 15:48 mark in the half, all the way to the 1:23 point between field goals, a span of 14:25. Pratt scored last going into the half and the Saints limped to the locker room down 33-24. As expected, the Saints halftime numbers were not pretty. Seward shot just 26% from the field and had 8 turnovers compared to just 7 field goals.
Seward looked a little bit more like themselves as the second have started but they again had to do it at the free throw line as they couldn’t get anything to fall with the clock running. Four free throws made it a 33-28 game but Pratt quickly pushed it back to a nine point advantage moments later. The Saints got their first field goal of the half nearly five minutes in as Ransom knocked down a much needed three pointer to cut it to a six point game. Seward just could not hold onto the momentum from the big shot though and it wasn’t until a mid-range jumper from Corieon Pearson that they were back to within four at 39-35 with 12:50 to go. The Saints and Beavers danced back and forth and it was still a four point game as the midway point of the half approached when big man Edson Avila finished inside and was fouled to cut it to a one possession game but Avila was called for a technical foul while trying to pump up the Seward crowd and the Beavers turned it back into a four point game 46-42 with 9:35 left. Pratt, as they had been many times this season, were up by seven points in the low scoring affair with under eight minutes to go, but that is when Seward decided to make its move. The Saints completely shut down the Beaver offense for the next five minutes and slowly crawled back into the game. A free throw made it a six point game and a Biggs steal and score had the Pratt lead down to four. Two more Saints free throws had Seward to within a pair and a Biggs to Daveon Boardingham connection tied the game up at 52 with 2:09 left in regulation. Pratt broke a seven minute field goal drought with a basket to take the lead back and Boardingham hit on just one of two free throw attempts on the Saints next trip to keep it a one point game in favor of Pratt 54-53 with 1:16 remaining. With under 40 seconds to go, what looked like a sure drive and score for Pratt was rejected by Seward’s Irvin Hollinger to send the Saints fans into a fury. On the following Seward trip down the floor, Pearson saw an opening and took advantage, driving to the hoop and finishing with 30 seconds left to put the Saints up 55-54, giving them their first lead since early in the first half. Trying to regain the lead, Pratt turned the ball over the next time up the court and Ransom knocked down two free throws after he was fouled to make it a three point game with 13 seconds left. The Saints did the only thing they didn’t want to do as the Beavers brought the ball down on their next trip, foul them, but Seward caught a break as Bryton Hobbs, one of the top free throw shooters in the conference, missed the back end of his two attempts to keep it a two point Seward lead. Pratt sent Biggs to the line with a chance to ice the game but the Saints star also missed the back end of his free throws to give Pratt one last ditch effort. The Beavers quickly brought the ball up the court with their 6 remaining seconds on the clock and Hobbs got a good look at the basket from the top of the key and his attempt to tie the game went in and out of the iron to give the Saints the thrilling 58-55 win.
The Saints offense didn’t heat up much in the second half as they shot just 39%, but their defense led them in the final 20 minutes, holding the Beavers to just 32% shooting and 6 field goals. Seward finished shooting just 32% in the win, the lowest percentage a Saints team has shot from the floor since the 2006-2007 season when Seward managed to put just 25% of their shots in in a loss to Garden City. Pratt didn’t finish much better at 39% and just 3 of 15 from three point land. Pratt finished with the edge in rebounding 42-31 but the Beavers turned the ball over 21 times compared to just 12 Seward turnovers. The games 113 combined points is also the least amount of points in any Saints game since the 06-07 matchup with the Broncbusters which saw Garden win 64-43. Understandably, neither side had any spectacular individual numbers. Biggs led the Saints with 14 points and 4 assists while Boardingham is beginning to regain his midseason form and finished with 13 points and 7 rebounds.
The 15th ranked Saints survive to reach 21-4 overall on the year and 9-2 in Jayhawk West action. They remain the top team in the league and got some help from conference opponents Saturday night as 5-5 Garden City upset 2nd place Barton in double overtime and 3-7 Dodge City upended 3rd place Colby to finish a rough week for the Trojans. Seward now holds a full 2 game advantage on Barton and Hutchinson who are now tied in 2nd place at 7-4. The Saints will hit the court again Wednesday in a big game in Concordia where they will take on a Cloud County team that is lethal on their home court.