The No. 21 ranked Barton Community College men's basketball team took its second consecutive loss of the season falling 86-79 Wednesday night at Dodge City Community College. Battling back from an eighteen point deficit late in the contest, the Cougars nearly pulled off the comeback drawing to within four with a minute remaining but symbolic to the frustrating night, a missed defensive rebound sealed the fate as two icing free throws ensued. The loss drops the Cougars drop to 10-2 on the season sinking to 6-2 in conference play while Dodge City improves to 8-3 and 5-3 in the Jayhawk. Barton will wind up the pre-Christmas portion of the schedule this Saturday as the Cougars host No. 2 ranked Hutchinson Community College in a 7:30 p.m. tip at the Barton Gym.
Malik Rhodes scored a career high twenty-four points including dropping 4-of-8 from long range including two late treys leading the comeback. Malik Toppin scored eight of his thirteen points leading an early second half charge finishing with thirteen. Anthony Smith just missed his third double-double of the season scoring twelve points and a team high nine rebounds while Charles Norman rounded out the double-digit scorers with ten.
Kourtney Ware's big second half twenty-one point production led the Conquistadors coming off the bench for twenty-five points on 7-of-10 from the field and sinking 9-of-11 from the free throw line. Trevon Evans' fourteen points led three others in double figures along with Trey Gundy III's thirteen and Josh Boutte's monster game of thirteen points and nineteen rebounds including eight on the offensive glass.
The Cougars quickly found themselves in a hole as Dodge City came out with seven straight before Rhodes found Toppin along the baseline for a two-handed stuff. One possession later Jahlil Rawley struck for a deep three and as the teams came up empty on the next two possessions Rhodes' three ball in front of the Conq bench gave Barton a brief early lead. The teams exchanged leads approaching the mid-way point of the half until an 8-0 run by the Conqs pushed the advantage out to seven with just over nine to play.
Rhodes finding Smith on a back door cut led an eight point comeback with Toppin capping the stretch making one of two free throws drawing to within two. An old-fashioned three point play by Keeshawn Palmer cut the deficit to one with over four minutes remaining and again at one with 2:20 on the clock with another Rhodes to Smith connection. The Conqs scored the next four increasing the lead but a Palmer steal and one hand tomahawk slam beat the first half buzzer sending the Cougars to intermission trailing by just three at 35-32.
Toppin stepped outside the arc draining just his second trey of the year stopping a Conq 7-0 early second half run and led an 8-1 stretch as Norman drained a seventeen footer and a John Barbee kick out to Rawley in the corner tied it up at 47 with fourteen to play. However the Conqs controlled the next five minutes in a critical stretch of the ball game as an 8-0 run and four of the Barton twenty-one turnovers led to a 16-2 stretch ballooning the lead to 68-50 with 8:02 remaining.
The Cougars went to work chipping away at the deficit but could only manage cutting off four points with 3:19 to play. Beginning with a Rhodes 1-of-2 trip to the line with 2:35 left, Barton began a frantic comeback forcing five Conq turnovers going on an 11-1 run pulling to within four after a pair of Barbee free throws with 1:02 to play. Two Gundy free throws pushed the lead back out to six but again the Cougars were within striking distance after Barbee's 1-of-2 trip to the line. Sending Ware to the line for two shots with forty-one seconds left, the freshman missed both but the Cougars failed to secure the rebound sending Ware back to the line draining the next two sealing Barton's fate with a seven point lead and only forty seconds to play. Norman's slash to the hole cut it to five with thirty seconds to play before another thirteen ticked off the clock until Barton sent Evans to the line for the final seven point loss.