The madness is on and the Seward County Saints have joined the fun. After breezing to a 1st round win Tuesday at the NJCAA National Tournament, the Saints had a little bit more of a game on their hands Thursday night as they matched up with Columbia State from Tennessee in the quarterfinals. Seward took an early lead but the Chargers fought back before the break to tie it at 25 and took their first lead of the game early in the second half. However, the resilient Saints pushed back and took the lead midway through the second half before getting another highlight reel play from Trey Starks to put an exclamation point on a 52-45 win as time expired. The Saints advance to the Final Four of the tournament and will now take on #2 Northwest Florida State in the semifinals on Friday at 8:00 with the winner earning the right to play for a National Championship Saturday night in the Sports Arena in Hutchinson.

For the second straight game, the Saints defense was impenetrable early on. Three pointers from Deverell Biggs and Irvin Hollinger put Seward up 6-0 three minutes in before Columbia State finally got on the board with a three of their own to make it 6-3. Seward them went on a 7-0 run behind Daveon Boardingham to go on top 13-3 when the Chargers finally picked up their second hoop of the game at the 13:00 mark to make it 13-5. The Saints took their largest lead of the game at 11 moments later but slowly Columbia crept back into things and held Seward without a field goal for over six minutes to cut their lead down to three at 17-14 with 5:13 remaining in the half . Edson Avila and Biggs scored to push the Seward lead back to seven but another lull down the stretch before the break saw Columbia State once again get back into the game and a free throw with 27 seconds left tied the game at 25 and that is where the teams were as they hit the break.
Columbia State carried their momentum over into the second half, quickly taking their first lead of the game with 18:09 left before the Saints tied it up with their first field goal of the period with 16:47 to go. It went back and forth for the next six minutes and thanks to some solid free throw shooting the Saints were able to stay in the game and take a 34-33 lead despite another five plus minute gap between field goals. A Briston White drive and score put Seward up 36-33 with 11:25 to go and the Saints stretched their lead to six at 41-35 with 6:38 to go on a run out and score from Kaheem Ransom. The Chargers kept on fighting and got it to three points a number of times, including with 1:57 left, but couldn't get over the hump as it seemed as if every possession a different Saint answered the bell with points to extend their lead to two possessions. Starks scored twice for Seward around Columbia State baskets to put them up four and Biggs made a free throw with under 30 seconds to go to make it a five point game. After a defensive stop to ice the game, the Saints pushed the ball up the floor one last time and a Biggs to Starks alley oop brought the packed house to their feet with the slam and gave the Saints a 52-45 win to advance to the round of four.
The Saints held the Chargers to just 22% shooting in the second half and 27% in the game while they didn't fare much better, shooting exactly 8 for 22 in each half, good for just 36%. Seward turned the ball over an eerie 25 times, but put in their work on the glass, out rebounding Columbia State 50-36 in the contest. Biggs and Irvin Hollinger both posted double doubles for the Saints as each scored 12 points while Hollinger pulled down 11 rebounds and Biggs 10 despite nursing an injured ankle. Boardingham narrowly missed a double double of his own as he scored 10 points and had 9 rebounds while Starks played one of his best games of the season, finishing with 9 points and 4 rebounds in the win.
The win makes the 2011-2012 Seward team just the 4th team in school history to reach the 30 win mark as they are now 30-6 overall while Head Coach Bryan Zollinger earns his 300th win as a Head Coach in the victory. Seward will now match up with Northwest Florida State in the Final Four on Friday at 8:00 with a trip to the National Championship Game on the line.