The Cinderella season continued for the Seward County Community College men’s basketball team on Tuesday night as the Saints won the NJCAA Region VI Tournament championship with a 71-61 triumph over tournament No. 1 seed Cowley College at Wichita State University’s Charles Koch Arena. Sophomore Darko Cohadarevic was named the tournament Most Valuable Player after leading the Saints with 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting and 10 rebounds. Seward County won its fourth Region VI title with a stellar performance over the No. 9 nationally-ranked Tigers. The Saints never trailed in the game and secured the victory shooting a season-high 54 percent (7-of-13) from 3-point range, and by making eight consecutive free throws in the final 37 seconds of the game. The Saints advance to the NJCAA National Tournament where they will face No. 2 nationally-ranked Chipola College (32-1) in the first round on Tuesday, March 18, during the feature game at 8:30 p.m. at the Hutchinson Sports Arena in Hutchinson, Kan.

Seward County first-year head coach Bryan Zollinger leads the Saints into the national tournament with a 29-5 overall record. Zollinger has now been a part of three of the Saints’ four Region VI championship seasons, with this season being his first as head coach. Four SCCC players were named Region VI All-Tournament team as Cohadarevic, Reggie Chamberlain, Ervin Williams and Nick Burns all received recognition. Cowley finishes its season with a 31-3 overall record. The last time Seward County won the Region VI title (1998) also came against Tigers’ head coach Steve Eck, when he was the head coach at Butler County C.C.

The Saints controlled the boards in the first half out-rebounding Cowley, 21-13. Seward County went into halftime with a 36-28 lead after shooting 52 percent from the field (14-of-27). Cohadarevic played just 10 minutes in the first half, but managed to score eight points and tallied six rebounds. Freshman point guard Reggie Chamberlain led all players at the break with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the floor.

Seward County led the entire first half and posted its largest lead in the game, 31-18, with 3:40 left to play before halftime. Seward County shot an impressive 5-of-8 from 3-point range, with Chamberlain connecting on 2-of-3 in the opening 20 minutes.

Cohadarevic dominated in the second half scoring 17 of his 25 points, including eight in a row for Seward County during a three-minute stretch midway through the final period. Following Burns’ second 3-pointer of the game, the Saints took a 56-49 lead with 8:27 remaining.

Cowley then went on a 10-3 run to tie the score for the first time since the opening tip, 59-59, with 1:56 to play. Cohadarevic answered with a lay-in to give the Saints a two-point lead, but on the following Cowley possession fouled out of the contest with his fifth personal foul with 1:28 remaining. The Tigers evened the score for the final time at 63-63, just before Bruno Mendes drove the lane to score his only basket of the evening, which was the eventual game-winning shot to put the Saints back in the lead, 63-61, with less than a minute remaining.

Chamberlain scored all six of his second-half points shooting 6-of-6 from the free throw line in the final minute, and Burns also added 2-of-2 from the charity stripe to secure the Region VI championship for the Saints. Chamberlain scored 20 points with a season-high eight rebounds and three assists. Burns chipped in 10 points, four steals, four rebounds and three assists.

Cowley suffered its first loss since Jan. 23, ending its 14-game winning streak. The Tigers only received scoring from six players, and shot a dismal 14-of-28 (.500) from the free throw line. Cowley was led by sophomores Preston Brown (18 points, six rebounds) and Montrell McDonald (17 points, four rebounds). Cowley, which was ranked in the NJCAA Top 20 during the final eight weeks of the regular season, completes its year with a school-record 31 victories.

The Saints out-rebounded Cowley 37-31, and Seward County shot 50 percent from the floor (25-of-50). Seward County completed the Region VI Tournament outscoring its opponents by an average of 17.5 points per game with a perfect 4-0 record. The Seward County men’s basketball program is now 3-1 in Region VI Tournament championship game appearances, and are 23-12 (.657) in Region VI Tournament play since 1993.

NOTES:
Zollinger was a player for the Saints in 1985 during Seward County’s first-ever Region VI title and then was an assistant coach for the Saints in 1995 in the program’s second Region VI championship… It was the Saints’ first match-up against a nationally-ranked opponent this season… The Saints’ 29 overall victories ties the third most wins ever for a Seward County team in 39 years of men’s basketball… Seward County improves to 8-1 this season when playing on a neutral court… Seward County finishes 5-0 against Jayhawk East opponents this season… SCCC is now 27-0 this season when shooting better than their opponent from the floor … Cohadarevic tallied his 10th 20-plus scoring game of the season… Cowley played without its leading scorer Chris Rhymes (15.9 ppg.), who suffered an apparent knee injury in the first half of the Tigers’ semifinals victory over Coffeyville on Monday… Seward has held its last five opponents to less than 62 total points… The Saints’ 10-point victory marked Cowley’s worst loss of the season… Saints’ assistant coach Ryan Stock coached the last two seasons at Eastern Arizona College, who also qualified for next week’s NJCAA National Tournament… Cohadarevic collected his ninth double-double of the season, and the 11th of his career… Nick Burns moved into third-place all-time in Saints’ history for career assists (258)… Reggie Chamberlain is now tied for seventh-place in SCCC history for single-season assists (152)…

NJCAA Region VI All-Tournament Team:
Darko Cohadarevic – Most Valuable Player (Seward County)
Reggie Chamberlain (Seward County)
Nick Burns (Seward County)
Ervin Williams (Seward County)
Montrell McDonald (Cowley)
Reggie Cook (Cowley)
Preston Brown (Cowley)
J.J. Seymore (Coffeyville)
Terrance Hill (Coffeyville)
Rudy Meo (Cloud County)
Bobby Maze (Hutchinson)

NJCAA National Tournament Qualifiers (as of Tuesday evening):
Seward County C.C. (29-5)
Eastern Arizona College (27-5)
Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (26-7)
Vincennes University (28-4)
South Plains College (26-5)
Walters State C.C. (31-1)
Chipola College (32-1)
Eastern Wyoming College (23-11)
Georgia Perimeter College (23-10)
Shelton State C.C. (24-10)
Salt Lake C.C. (29-3)
Paris J.C. (28-5)
Itawamba C.C. (29-2)
Southeastern Illinois College (27-6)
*** Two qualifying teams have yet to be determined