Neidy Ocuane dribbles the ball against a Cloud defender Tuesday in the Hartman Arena in Park City. Ocuane and the Lady Saints rallied from a slow start to knock off the Lady Thunderbirds and move on to the Region VI championship game with a 72-54 win. Courtesy photo
Strong 2nd half sends Seward to title game
By ROY ALLEN
Seward sports information director
The top seeded Seward County Lady Saints came from behind for a 72-54 win Tuesday afternoon in Park City’s Hartman Arena, knocking off Cloud County to advance to the Region VI Tournament Championship game for the second straight year where they will take on Hutchinson Wednesday night with an automatic berth to the NJCAA National Tournament on the line.
The fourth ranked Lady Saints got off to a slow start Tuesday, failing to score their first field goal of the game until 4:15 in, but a solid early defensive effort kept them right in the game with the T-Birds as it was just a 6-3 game midway through the first quarter. Seward didn’t get their second field goal of the period until the 3:36 mark of the quarter on a three from Mollie Mounsey, but the Lady Saints kept Cloud completely off the board from the 6:07 to the 3:05 mark of the quarter to take their first lead of the game at 8-6. After Cloud went back up momentarily 10-8, Joanna Grymek scored for Seward to tie it and pitched in another bucket late in the quarter to give the Lady Saints a 12-10 lead after one.
Cloud came out and scored the first five points of the second to jump back in front 15-12 and remained on top until the 7:00 mark of the quarter when Mounsey drove the length of the court and scored to put Seward up one.
The Lady Saints went cold from there though, getting just a single field goal in the next 4:45 as they faced their largest deficit of the afternoon at 27-21 with 2:53 to go in the quarter. Another bunny from Grymek and a three from Valerie Caro got Seward back to within one, but Cloud would bump their lead to four before the break, going to the half with a 33-29 lead on the Lady Saints.
Nothing was particularly pretty for the Lady Saints on the first half stat sheet as they shot just 34 percent while going 2 for 8 from three point land and turning it over 10 times in the first 20 minutes. Grymek led Seward with 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots in the half while Mounsey scored 7, no other Lady Saints had more than a single field goal in the first half.
Some quick changes at the half by the Lady Saints quickly turned the tides the way of the gals in green as Seward went on a 16-0 run early in the third quarter, turning a three point deficit into a commanding 50-37 lead. Cloud finally broke their drought with a pair of free throws, but Neidy Ocuane connected on a three from the corner for Seward to close the quarter and give the Lady Saints a 53-39 lead after three.
Seward didn’t stop there. Mounsey came out firing early in the fourth and banged home a pair of threes before Manuela Fungate scored on a putback to make it a 20 point game at 61-41 with 7:00 to go. Seward took its largest lead of the game on another Grymek bucket on the inside to make it a 70-47 game and the Lady Saints cruised to the finish line to finish off the T-Birds 72-54.
After the slow start, Seward shot 53 percent in the second half to finish the game at 44 percent overall while holding Cloud to just nine second half field goals and 32 percent shooting on the game. Grymek had a monster game, finishing with 23 points, 14 rebounds, and 8 blocked shots while Mounsey finished with 22 points and 7 boards for Seward.
The Lady Saints improved to 31-1 on the year with the win while advancing to their second straight Region VI Championship game and Cloud County ends their season a respectable 23-9.
Seward moves onto the title bout tonight at 5 p.m. where they will take on No. 2 Hutchinson for an automatic bid to the NJCAA National Tournament. With both teams expected to be at the Big Dance in Lubbock, Wednesday’s dual will serve as both a tuneup for the two as well as a key resume builder for tournament seeding.