The Seward County Saints hung tough with homestanding Arizona Western for the first 15 minutes of their Matador Classic matchup in Yuma, Arizona on Saturday night, but a 9-0 Western run to close the half and a big second half for the Matadors did the Saints in as Arizona Western knocked Seward off 78-62 to drop the Saints to 4-6 on the season.
Coming off of an overtime win on Friday, the Saints carried their momentum into the early stages of Saturday's contest with Arizona Western. Seward jumped out to an early 6-2 lead and continued to hold a four point lead after a Tyreke Sharp bucket with 13:26 to go in the first half. Tied at 21 later on in the half, a pullup three in transition by Kevin Sims put the Saints up by three and Seward held the lead to the 3:31 mark when they led 28-26. However, the Saints went cold to finish the half and Arizona Western took advantage, outscoring Seward 9-0 to close the period to take a 35-28 lead into the break.
The Matadors quickly stretched their lead to 10 as the second half began, but Seward continued to battle, cutting the Arizona Western advantage to five on a three from Secean Johnson and a dunk from Nick Singleton to make it 45-40. The Saints continued to push, cutting the Matador lead down to two at 61-59 with 5:38 remaining in the contest. Just as the Saints got close, their end of the half blues reappeared. Back to back Arizona Western threes and a big dunk stretched the Matador lead to nine and the Saints went ice cold down the stretch, watching Arizona Western outscore them 17-3 in the final 5:00 to come away with a 78-62 win on their home floor.
The Saints numbers weren't particularly bad in the loss as they shot 46% from the field and were 17 of 20 from the free throw line, but Arizona Western hurt Seward on the boards, hauling in 11 offensive rebounds, allowing them to get 13 more field goals up than the Saints in the contest. The Matadors also hit 47% of their three point attempts and got to the free throw line 27 times, making 23 of those chances. Johnson led Seward with 15 points in the loss while Singleton added 11 and Jamal Poplar finished with a game high 10 rebounds.
The Saints drop to 4-6 on the year with the defeat. It marks the second straight year the Saints have started 4-6, the first time for that since the 1987 season. Ironically, the Saints 6th loss last season came to Western Nebraska, who like Arizona Western, had just one win over an NJCAA opponent when they beat Seward.
Seward's schedule will get considerably lighter over the next 10 days as the Saints will play OnPoint Prep and the Oklahoma Outlaws as part of the Pizza Hut Classic Friday and Saturday in the Greenhouse, followed by a rare Sunday date with the Northwest Kansas All-Stars and a game next Wednesday against Pure Prep Academy.