By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
Seward might have thought they were in a free throw contest rather than a basketball game against Butler County. The two teams combined for 108 free throw attempts, 79 of those after halftime, and the Saints made fewer of them in a 99-98 double overtime loss.
Four Saints and four Grizzlies fouled out of the game.
It was the missed free throws that came back to haunt the Saints in the early-season thriller between the two Jayhawk West opponents in a non-league match-up.
Seward missed 28 free throws and only shot 49 percent at the line while Butler outscored Seward at the line, 37-26 and shot 67 percent from the free throw line.
Seward took an early lead, but Butler erased the deficit, and the two teams headed to the halftime break tied 42-42.
Butler continued to push out to a lead, and midway through the second half had an eight-point advantage.
But the Saints worked their way back to take a five point lead with 36 seconds remaining in the game.
But two missed free throws followed by two Seward fouls allowed Butler to tie the game, 83-83 at the end of regulation.
Butler took a four-point lead in the first overtime, but the Saints scored six unanswered points to take an 89-87 lead with 23 seconds to play.
Butler was called for a technical foul, and Seward had a chance to put the game away. But the Saints missed both free throws.
Butler attempted to win the game with a three-point shot in the final 10 seconds, but the shot missed. Seward could not get the rebound, and Butler was able to get the put-back basket to tie the game and sned it to a second overtime.
Butler outscored the Saints 7-1 to start the second overtime, but the Saints came back in the final 1:48 to outscore the Grizzlies 8-3 after Kevin Smith hit a banked three-point shot, and the Saints trailed 99-98 with 14.3 seconds to play.
This time, it was Butler who struggled at the line and could not make either of the two free throws, and Seward had a chance for the win. But the Saints committed a costly turnover by passing directly to a Grizzly without firing a last-second shot, and Butler was able to hold on for the one-point win.
Seward had its best shooting night of the season at 46 percent including a 40 percent effort from the three-point line.
Kevin Smith had a career night for the Saints, scoring 27 points including seven three pointers. The seven long balls made Smith only the seventh player in school history to score seven in a game.
Niem Stevenson scored 18, Secan Johnson added 16, and Malcolm Hill-Bey scored 10.
The victory for Butler was the first over the Saints in seven tries.
Seward dropped to 3-4 while the Grizzlies improved to 7-1.
Seward faced Raleigh’s Finest Prep Academy Saturday. See results in Monday’s Leader&Times.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Seward assistant athletic director Roy Allen contributed to this story.