LIBERAL, Kan. – In front of an electrifying Greenhouse crowd, the Seward County men's basketball team gave the No. 11 Barton Cougars all they could handle, falling in the final seconds, 78-77. The Saints came just short of their first statement win under first year head coach Jason Sautter.
In what was a back-and-forth contest, Seward (13-8-9-8) started out perfect, connecting on each of their three baskets to take an 8-0 lead just a minute and a half into the game, forcing the Cougars to call a timeout. Barton came out of the timeout and went on a 10-4 run to close the gap to two points. A few minutes later, a three-point shot by Barton capped a 7-3 run, making the score 17-15 in favor of the Cougars.
The Saints quickly responded and the two teams began trading baskets for the remainder of the quarter. The Cougars hit a three-point basket with 44 seconds left in the half to take a 38-37 lead, but Terrell Alfred responded with an NBA-range three to beat the buzzer and give the Saints a two-point lead heading into the half.
Both offenses were clicking in the first half, with Seward hitting 42.9 percent (15 of 35) of their shots and Barton shooting 55.6 percent (15 of 27). The Saints connected on 6 of their 15 (40%) three-point attempts while the Cougars hit 5 of 11 (45.5%).
The game stayed even until midway through the second half. With the scored tied at 56, the Cougars went on a 10-0 run. It appeared that the No. 11 team had gained the momentum needed to put the game away, but Saints fought back, going on a 13-3 run to take a one-point lead following an Isiah Small three-point play.
With just under three minutes to play, Barton took a three-point lead. Once again, the Saints had an answer, going on a 5-0 run over the next minute and half to take a 77-75 lead. With 14 seconds left on the clock, Ke'Sean Davis fouled Kawainse Wilkins, sending the Barton guard to the line, connecting on both attempts.
The Saints took the ball down the court for a potential game winning shot. Devin Bethely missed a floater, and Davis couldn't connect on a put back. Off Davis' miss, Isiah Small fouled Wilkins on the rebound, sending him to the line once more, where he connected on one of two with 2.4 seconds left. A desperation heave went out of bounds as the Cougars held off the Saints upset bid, 78-77.
Seward shot 43.1 percent (28 of 65) for the game and 37.9 percent (11 of 29) from behind the arc. The Cougars shot 49.1 percent (26 of 53) from the floor and 40 percent (10 of 25) from deep. Free throws ended up being the difference maker, as the Cougars went 16 for 25 (64%) at the line, while Saints hit just 10 of 17 (58.8%).
Three Saints finished in double-figures, led by Alfred's 29 points. Alfred hit seven threes in the game, one shy of tying the single-game record for the second time this season. Davis (12 pts/10 rebs) came away with his third career double-double, while Small added 11 points.
The Saints will go on a two-game road stretch, beginning with a match-up against the Pratt Beavers at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday (Jan. 31). Pratt will live-stream the game and it can be heard on 107.5 KSCB with Brock Kappelmann (pxp) on the call.