The Seward County Community College men’s basketball team advanced to the Region VI championship game with a 69-54 victory over Cloud County Community College on Monday night in the semifinals at Charles Koch Arena at Wichita State University. A dominating second-half effort pushed the Saints to their third win against the Thunderbirds this season. Seward County first-year head coach Bryan Zollinger has led the Saints to a conference championship, a 28-5 overall record and now to the program’s first appearance in the Region VI championship game since 2002. SCCC will take on No. 9 nationally-ranked Cowley College in the tournament championship on Tuesday, March 11, at 8 p.m. The winner of tomorrow night’s game will represent the Region VI at the NJCAA National Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., March 18-22 at the Hutchinson Sports Arena. Cloud County ends its season in the semifinals for the third consecutive season with a 21-12 overall record.

Tournament No. 2 seed Seward County enters the title game winning 15 of its last 16 games overall, and with a current eight-game winning streak. Cowley, the No. 1 seed in the Region VI Tournament, owns a 31-2 overall record and has won 14 straight games. The Tigers knocked off defending Region VI champion Coffeyville Community College (74-63) to earn a spot in the title game. Seward County’s last Region VI title came in 1998 while Cowley’s last trip to the national tournament was in 1957.

Seward County sophomores Nick Burns and Darko Cohadarevic collected two fouls apiece in the first half, limiting both players to only five minutes of action. The Saints were still able to hold the lead for the majority of the opening half and led by as many as five points, 25-17, following a Donald Dixon 3-pointer at the 6:15 mark.

Late in the first half Cloud County made two straight buckets to trail 30-28 at halftime. The Saints shot 48 percent (11-of-23) from the field in the first half while holding the Thunderbirds to 33 percent shooting.

SCCC sophomore Ervin Williams led the Saints in the first half scoring nine points, and he also recorded four rebounds and three blocked shots. Point guard Reggie Chamberlain added eight points with three steals in the opening period.

The second half belonged to Seward County as they shot 53 percent from the field and 63 percent from 3-point range. Cloud County held a one-point lead (39-40) with 12:14 remaining, and then the Saints took over the game. Seward County went on a 17-0 run, which included 9-of-11 from the free throw line. Cohadarevic started the run with an old-fashioned 3-point-play, and Mendes added a 3-pointer to help give the Saints a 57-40 lead with 5:02 left to play.

The T-Birds tried to stay close late in the game with four 3-pointers during a three minute span to cut the Saints’ lead to seven points (61-54) with 1:53 left to play. Seward County locked down the victory with two clutch 3-pointers from Nick Burns, and with a 6-of-8 shooting performance from the free throw line. Burns scored all of his 11 points in the second half on 3-of-3 from 3-point range, with four assists and two steals.

Mendes led a balanced scoring attack for the Saints with 14 points (3-of-7 three-pointers), and the freshman guard from Sao Carlos, Brazil, picked up his first career double-double with 10 rebounds. In addition, Mendes’ second 3-pointer early in the game gave the Saints 276 team 3-pointers for the season, breaking the previous school-record that was set in 1998.

Seward County’s defense once again came up strong holding the T-Birds to just 26 points in the second half on 25 percent shooting. Cloud County collected half of its rebounds from the offensive end (18 offensive boards), but allowed the Saints to score 24 points off 18 CCCC turnovers.

Girod Adams led all players scoring 23 points while playing in his final game at Cloud County. Sophomore Rudy Meo chipped in 17 points, and freshman Jemal Farmer posted a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds for the T-Birds. Sophomore Kendall Russell was held scoreless for the second time this season verses the Saints. The 6-foot-6 wing averages 11.5 points per game, but has recorded points in only one of three games against SCCC this season.