In a matchup of the top teams in the Jayhawk West, cold second half shooting doomed the Barton Community College men's basketball team as the 18th ranked Cougars went down 84-80 to front runner Seward County Community College.
The loss snaps Barton's six game win streak in sliding to 22-5 on the season while placing the Cougars two games out of the conference race and a game above Hutchinson for second place. The Saints in turn solidified their title hunt with their sixth consecutive victory improving to 16-3 in the West and 23-5 overall.
Barton has little time to regroup as the Cougar basketball squads head to Colby Community College on Monday in a rescheduled make-up of the February 11 weather cancellation. Tip-off time at the Community Building slated for 7:30 p.m.
Neither team could gain much of an advantage in the first twenty minutes as the lead changed ten times. Barton held an early four point edge as Tyrell Andrews tip-in capped off an 8-0 run to lead 11-7 with 16:49 on the clock while Seward County gained their largest lead of five behind a four point stretch to lead 31-26 with 8:34 left in the half.
Making the start on sophomore night, Andrews buried a half court buzzer beater to send the hosts to the locker room with a 44-42 lead.
Elijah Ford's hard earned bucket in the paint to begin second half play matched Barton's largest lead but the Saints roared back behind Reggie Miller's five straight. Andrews' second of two free throws put Barton back out in front for the final time at 48-47 with 17:47 remaining as the air cooled around the Barton bucket the rest of the game.
Keeping the deficit margin hovering around five points for the next ten minutes, the Saints produced a decisive 7-0 run to lead by eleven with 2:52 to play as Barton went six minutes without a field goal until Diovonte Caldwell's three pointer halted the drought.
Barton drew within five on a John Williams trey with forty-one seconds left, getting as close to four twice in the final fifteen seconds but a pair of Marco Morency free throws kept the game from getting within a possession.
After shooting over 51% in the first half, the Cougars went ice cold in the second half making just eleven field goals for 27.5% shooting while the Saints connected on 48%.
Ford led all players with a twenty-four point night in just missing a double-double in hauling down eight rebounds to go along with three blocked shots. Overshadowed in the loss was the free throw performance of Leondre Washington as the sophomore transfer was perfect at the stripe in thirteen attempts for the third best single game free throw shooting in program history. Washington finished with twenty-two points on the night while also joining Ford and Akeem White in sharing team high rebound honors with eight each to rebound the Saints by three. White finished up with eleven points with Andrews contributing nine to match the Cougars' bench production on the night.
All five Seward County starters reached double-digits with Isiah Small's double-double twenty points and twelve rebounds to go along with five rejections leading the way. Jon Brown added nineteen, Morency contributed twelve, and Miller and Montrevion Flowers each adding eleven.