LIBERAL, Kan. – It wasn't an easy task opening the regular season with an NJCAA National Tournament team, but the No. 10 Seward County Lady Saints used a second half surge to power past the Western Nebraska Cougars 74-64 to give Austin Mefford his first career win.
The game didn't start well for the Lady Saints (1-0), as nerves took over, playing in front of a rowdy Greenhouse crowd. Silvia Veloso put Seward on top with a layup to start the game, but the Lady Saints struggled for the remainder of the quarter to put points on the board, falling behind eight points and leaving the home crowd concerned as they trailed 20-12 after the first quarter.
Seward quickly got back into the game, using a 7-0 run over the first two and half minutes of the second quarter to cut the lead to one. However, the Cougars responded, going on their own 8-0 run to push their lead to nine points. From that point in the game, it was all Seward County, as the Lady Saints tightened up their defense, holding the Cougars to just five points over the final six minutes of play. While the Lady Saints were suffocating the Cougars defensively, they used an offensive attack to trim the lead to two points just before halftime with a Veloso three, as the first half ended with the score 33-31.
The Lady Saints forced three turnovers in the first three possessions to tie the game at 33. Just a few possessions later, Lexi Hernandez connected on a free throw to give the Lady Saints their first lead since the opening point. It was a tight ball game as the two power house programs traded blows for the next half quarter, but a 7-0 Lady Saints run gave Seward the breathing room they needed to hold off any future Cougar runs.
After Western Nebraska cut the lead to two, Seward started another run, this time capped off by a Hernandez pull up jumper to put the Lady Saints up 59-51 with eight minutes to play in the game. Seward managed to keep their distance from the Cougars the remainder of the game, before Sidney Tinner came through with a pair of free throws to put Seward up ten, as the Lady Saints won 74-64.
Seward shot 43.5 percent from the field (27-62), but struggled to find the rim from behind the arc (21.7 percent). The new man-to-man defense proved to be too much for the Cougars, as they were held to just 28.4 percent (19-67) from the field and 27.3 percent (9-33) from deep.
Veloso led all scorers with a career-high 23 points. She also added three steals and three rebounds. Hernandez joined Veloso in double-figures, scoring 15 points and grabbing a career-high seven rebounds.
Seward will play again tomorrow (Sat., Nov. 3) at 6:00 pm against Bethany JV. The game will be live streamed on the Seward County Sports Network or can be heard on 1270 AM with Brock Kappelmann on the call.