A partially blocked game winning three came up just enough short Thursday to end the thrilling ride of the Barton Community College men's basketball team in an 82-80 loss to Eastern Florida State College in the NJCAA Division I National Tournament quarterfinals at the Hutchinson Sports Arena. The sixteenth seeded Cougars conclude the season with the most wins since the 2000-01 season in finishing at 29-7 while the eighth seeded Titans (28-4) advance to the final four for the second straight year in earning a Friday 6:00 p.m. matchup against thirteenth seeded South Plains.
As you can expect at games this time of the season, the teams traded leads ten times in just the first half of action as each exchanged blows throughout not just the first twenty minutes but the game's entirety.
Behind the beginning of what would be a career scoring night, Keshon Montague's banked in three-pointer from the top of the key followed by a 17' jumper put Barton out 10-6 early.
Later with the Cougars continuing to lead by four, it was the Titans turn to rattle off a scoring stretch taking the next seven points in taking the lead.
Akeem White knocked down his lone trey of the game for a four point lead with just under ten to play but the Titans fired back owning the next five minutes. A 7-0 run regained the advantage but Cannon's back-to-back buckets flipped the lead back to Barton in signifying the type of first half action that transpired in front of a pro-Barton raucous crowd.
For the third straight tournament game, Barton would go on to a halftime lead as the Cougars' 46% shooting was offsetting the Titans' owning of the glass including fifteen offensive rebounds to take a slim 49-48 score to the break.
Second half action was much like the first, providing hardnosed basketball on each end of the court including defensive stops and offensive highlights leaving fans glued to the action.
The Cougars surged ahead by four on Montague's second triple of the second half then drained a pair of free throws after being fouled in transition created by Elijah Ford's steal with 14:21 to play. Answering Nathaniel Jack's lone three-pointer of the game, another Montague trey for his sixth of the game pushed the lead back out to the six point margin just eleven seconds later at 66-60 with 13.47 left.
For Barton fans the margin and next five minutes would live in infamy as the Cougars went cold from the field missing their next eight shots and turning the ball over three times. On the bright side and fortunately for Barton, the Titans also went cold during that stretch with 2-of-10 shooting and just 2-of-4 from the stripe in managing just six points to tie it at 66 with nine minutes to play on Ahmed Ali's third trey of the game.
Webster answered the tying trey to regain the lead with fast paced back and forth action taking place the next the next two minutes with Ford getting a bucket and Cannon draining a baseline triple coming on one of seven Montague's dimes for a 74-71 Barton lead with 7:10 left.
The next 2:17 belonged to the Titans in owning the paint for six straight until Montague's career high seventh three-pointer tied it at 77 with 3:47 to play.
Five straight including Michael Nuga's third long range shot of the game as the Barton defense looked to have prevailed on the possession put the Titans ahead for their largest lead of five with 2:49 on the clock.
No scoring would take place for the next 1:48 as the Cougars turned the ball over once to go along with two missed shots while the Titans missed a shot and committed a turnover.
Dalyrimple's three-ball gave Barton new life with the ensuing defensive effort again coming up big forcing a wild three-point attempt resulting in a shot clock violation. Working the ball inside to the Cougars' big man Kawanise Wilkins, the Titans had a bigger man waiting for him as the 6'8" Eli Abaev blocked the shot with seventeen seconds as Barton would foul the 6'11" Ruot Monyyong on the rebound.
Monyyong would give the Cougars another chance in missing the front end of the one-and-one but as Montague was cut off at the point, Monyyong would fly out to the wing in partially deflecting Dalyrimple's three-pointer. On target for the game winner, the deflection was just enough to halt the distance as the buzzer sounded to end Barton's season.
The taller Titans dominated the boards in first half action and on the final stat sheet 51-37 including twenty-four on the offensive glass for a four point second chance advantage and a fourteen point margin in points in the paint. Getting the fifteen offensive rebounds in the first half action, the Cougars did much better in the second half action limiting the Titans to just nine.
Montague closed out his Barton career with a season high twenty-nine points to lead all scorers while dishing out seven assists. Cannon finished off his three games of terror with his third straight double-double of the tournament with an eighteen point and thirteen rebound effort to go along with two blocks. The three straight was also the fourth straight and fifth of the Cougars' six playoff games as the Virginia freshman posted seven on the year. Webster also donned the Cougar uniform for the last time as the hometown product went 3-of-7 from behind the arc finishing his career with eleven points.
Eastern Florida had three in double digits led by the season high nineteen points from Jalen Warren. Nuga and Ali combined for 6-of-17 from long distance in scoring fifteen and thirteen respectively while Jack drained another three triples for eleven off the bench. Abaev led three Titans in double digit rebounding with twelve with Silas Adheke and Monyyong collecting eleven each.
Complete Tournament information can be found at the official tournament website located at www.njcaahutchtourney.com