It's been four years since the Barton Community College men's basketball team could enjoy the drive home after the three hour trip to Liberal but Tuesday night the Cougars broke that three-game streak defeating Seward County Community College 88-81. The Cougars answered the Saints first lead in nearly twenty-four minutes with an 8-0 mid second half run building an eleven point margin in the following five minutes before holding Seward County at arm's reach the rest of the game. Additionally snapping a three game losing streak to the Saints, Barton remains atop the conference standings at 4-0 improving to 8-0 on the season while sending Seward County to its eight straight conference season dating back to last season's win over the Cougars in falling to 0-4 in the Jayhawk and 3-5 on the season. Barton will take a few days off for the holiday break before refocusing for Saturday's 5:30 p.m. contest against Cowley College.
Two early treys for Seward County and Barton buckets by Ezekiel Charles and Jahlil Rawley with four points coming from Malik Toppin tied the game at eight after the first six minutes as neither team could find their rhythm. Giving the Cougars added energy coming off the bench, Devonte Barker took over scoring the next nine points including draining a trey, then following Toppin's keeping the possession alive, would convert a hoop-n-harm. Following a missed Saints shot, Barker was back at it draining his second trey before coming up with a theft feeding a streaking Rawley for a nine point Barton lead in a matter of four minutes.
The Saints would crawl their way back into the game tying it at 23 but Smith, who along with Toppin played with foul trouble most of the night, grabbed an offensive rebound converting two free throws with another 1-of-2 trip to the line coming later helping stretch the lead back out to four. Seward County would tie it again with its own four point stretch but another pair of Barker buckets and Rawley's steal and transition pushed the lead to six with a minute to play. Two Saints free throws cut the deficit but Rawley's splash down of a trey gave Barton a 38-33 edge to the break.
A Seward County three-point play and field goal just forty seconds into the second frame tied it up at thirty eight. The Cougars fought off the Saints regaining the lead but after failing to convert free throws and two offensive rebounds on one possession, a pair of Charles Beauregard charity tosses with 12:29 remaining flipped the scoreboard to a home team advantage for the first time since the 14:34 mark of the first half. Charles would tie it on the next possession but Beauregard connected on another of his three treys on the night giving the Saints a three point lead. Keeshawn Palmer cut the deficit on the ensuing Barton possession grabbing an offensive rebound with a stick back with 9:34 to play.
The next two minutes belonged to Charles as the Quinnipiac University commit connected on consecutive tough inside drives to the hoop and added 4-of-4 charity throws giving Barton a five point lead. Answering Kevin Sims' jumper, John Barbee extended the lead to six just twenty seconds later knocking down a baseline trey in front of the Saints' faithful.
Holding the Saints without a field goal for the next four minutes, Barton's lead grew during that timeframe as Toppin and Charles contributed four points each for a 73-62 lead with 4:47 to play. From there the Cougars matched the Saints' trips to the line with Rawley providing a dagger field goal with ninety seconds to play for a ten point margin.
Seward County did make things interesting drawing to within seven with forty seconds remaining but Rhodes and Charles were a combined 6-of-6 from the charity stripe down the stretch securing the victory.
Eclipsing the twenty-point mark for the fourth straight game, Charles led the Cougars with twenty-four points including swishing ten of his twelve free three attempts. Charles also just fell just short of a double-double performance grabbing nine rebounds for the third straight game while also leading the Cougars dishing out five assists in matching his career high. Barker scored all fifteen of his points in the first half as Rawley matched his career high of eleven in first half action to also finish with a new career high fifteen points as the duo helped Barton to a twenty-eight point bench advantage over the Saints. Toppin added ten points while Smith grabbed eight rebounds despite each being saddled with foul trouble most of the night.
All five starters for the Saints reached double-digit scoring as Seward County was only able to get thirteen points from its bench. Spencer Franklin's 6-of-8 from the field and 8-of-9 from the line led the Saints with twenty-one points with Beauregard's 3-of-5 from beyond the arc leading to a fourteen point night. Kevin Sims led the Saints with six rebounds while scoring twelve points with Pierre Johnson dishing out seven assists and added eleven points. Micah Littlejohn rounded out the double-digit scorers with ten points.
Despite being outshot from the field 55% to 48%, Barton gained a six point advantage at the free throw line generated by a 15-2 edge on the offensive glass leading to seventeen second chance points as the Cougars owned a sixteen board overall margin.