By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
The game between the No. 9 Lady Saints and No. 3 Hutchinson Lady Blue Dragons lived up to its billing Saturday in the Greenhouse with neither team leading by more than six.
But it was a strong Hutchinson finish that erased a Seward County lead in the final two minutes, and late turnovers ended Seward’s chances at an upset with a 61-55 loss.
Hutchinson took the early advantage with a 10-4 lead, but Fabiana Monte hit a three-pointer to narrow the gap to 10-7 with 15:45 to play in the first half.
Shanise Brooks hit back-to-back baskets in the lane, and the Lady Saints had their first lead, 13-12 with 12:37 to play before half.
Hutch used a 6-0 run to regain the lead, but Briana Scott hit a three-pointer to keep the Lady Saints within two midway through the first half.
Both teams picked up the defensive pressure the rest of the half, and scoring became a premium.
Seward trailed 21-17 with 6:41 to play but outscored the Lady Blue Dragons 10-2 over the next five minutes to take a 27-23 lead with 1:10 to play in the half.
JenVonTe Hill hit a three-pointer for the Lady Blue Dragons before half but missed two free throws in the final 22 seconds, and the Lady Saints had a one-point lead at half, 27-26.
The battle remained close in the second half, but Seward was able to use a Brooks three pointer and two free throws to take a 38-32 lead with 15:11 to play.
But the Lady Blue Dragons went on a 10-2 run to take a 42-40 lead with 12:02 to play.
Brooks tied the score on Seward’s next possession, but the final 10 minutes continued to be a grind with the lead changing hands three times late in the second half to go along with five ties.
Kyndal Davis flipped the lead from two for the Lady Blue Dragons to two for Seward when she stole two straight passes at midcourt and laid the ball in for a 46-44 Seward lead.
Seward’s final lead came when Monte hit a basket with 3:19 to go that gave the Lady Saints a 53-52 lead.
Neither team scored again until 1:22 to play when Hutch hit a basket to take a 54-53 lead.
Seward struggled to get a good shot and had to foul twice which allowed Hutch to build a 58-53 lead.
Davis added a pair of free throws with 28.9 seconds to play to trim the lead to 58-55, but Hutch made three of four free throws to secure the 61-55 win.
“It was a good, competitive battle between two good teams,” Seward coach Toby Wynn said. “At the end they made more plays and finished better than we did.”
The Lady Blue Dragons made 20 of 31 free throws in the game while the Lady Saints made seven of 13 attempts.
“Ot was very disappointing we weren’t able to get to the free throw line more than we did,” Wynn said. “They weren’t going to give us much inside. We had some great looks outside and went 4-23 from three. We didn’t make the plays, and it was a tough loss at home.”
Brooks led the Lady Saints with 17 points. Brianna Scott added 10.
Korina Chapman had seven points but was limited with foul trouble and only played 26 minutes.