The Barton Community College men's basketball team defeated Cowley College 76-69 Sunday night at Park City's Hartman Arena in the quarterfinals of the Region VI Tournament. Barton ends seventh seeded Cowley's season at 17-15 while the second seeded Cougars improve to 25-7 on the season advancing to the semifinal round for the first time since 2013. The Cougars will next play in the 5:00 p.m. game on Tuesday in the rubber match with sixth seeded Coffeyville Community College who improved to 20-12 on the season after the Ravens dispatched Neosho County Community College 84-60.
As been the norm with the Cougars throughout the season, Barton typically starts slow but finishes strong especially down the stretch. As the case Sunday shooting just 33% in first half action but erasing a two point halftime deficit to shoot over 57% in the second half outscoring the Tigers by nine in the final twenty points.
Tied at fifty-five with six minutes to play, Malik Toppin's layup gave Barton the lead and following a Mike'l Simms answer on the other end, Malik Rhodes broke the final tie with a 1-of-2 trip to the line putting Barton out in front for good. Scoring in all but two possessions in the final six, Barton outscored the Tigers by seven the rest of the way.
Back-to-back Charles Norman baskets pushed the lead to three with a bucket and free throw by Rhodes extending the lead to four with just under four to play. With Cowley answering every Barton move, Ezekiel Charles's capped six straight Barton possessions with a score before the scoring dropped off.
With the offense dropping off, the Cougars turned up the defense limiting Cowley's opportunities to score as neither team scoring a field goal in the ensuing two-plus minutes getting 1-of-2 trips to the line from Jahlil Rawley and Smith and Ryker Pierce's lone free throw the only scoring.
Devante McGee's points in the paint broke the teams' field goal drought with forty-one seconds remaining but a pair of tosses from Rhodes six seconds later pushed the lead back to five. Pierce made things more interesting quickly knocking down a trey as did the ensuing Rhodes' 1-of-2 trip to the line but Simms' missed shot with ten seconds all but sealed the Tigers fate with Barton up by three with 70% free throw shooter Smith headed to the line.
In a strange twist, Smith's free throws got much easier as the teams lined up for the tosses, Brett Wright was whistled for a technical foul. Rhodes stepped in for the throws and the 77% shooter drained both before Smith's final two daggers gave the Cougars the seven point win.
Smith posted his second straight double-double and eleventh of the season leading Barton with twenty points and hauling down twelve rebounds. Rhodes sank 8-of-11 free throws and buried two treys for eighteen points while Charles finished with fifteen going 5-of-10 from the field including 3-of-6 from behind the arc. Rawley didn't have his best scoring night but the freshman contributed big in other ways coming up with three steals and dishing out six assists while Charles Norman's 50% shooting off the bench added eight points.
Simms dropped over twenty points for the sixth time in the last games to lead the Tigers with twenty-three. Pierce led with seven rebounds and Wright dishes out four assists as each scored thirteen with Cedric Rembert adding twelve.
Story contribution by the Great Bend Tribune.