By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
The Labette Six were down to four by the end of Tuesday’s opening round game against the Saints in the Greenhouse.
The only disappointment for the Saints fans might have been the missed free throw by Irvin Hollinger in the final 24 seconds that prevented Seward from scoring 100 points in the 99-63 Seward County rout over the Cardinals.
Five Saints scored in double figure in what head coach Bryan Zollinger said devolved into a “pick-up game.”
“It is what it is,” Zollinger said after the rout. “We had an opponent that hasn’t been very successful. You just hope the guys stay focused and crack the game open.”
The No. 1 seed Saints had no problem cracking the game open against the shorthanded Cardinals. The Saints were faster, more athletic and methodically outscored Labette throughout the game.
The frustration finally reached the Labette six with 4:17 to play when Travion Fleeks slammed the ball to the court and was hit with a technical.
While the Cardinals struggled, the Saints sizzled. Seward shot 68 percent in the second half and ended the game shooting 60 percent.
Two Cardinals fouled out in the final moments of the game, leaving only four Labette players on the court. Three Cardinals were released from the team last week for disciplinary purposes.
After hitting a rough spot late in the season with back-to-back losses to Cloud and Dodge City, the Saints rediscovered their rhythm and dominated Garden City, Butler and Labette and will head to Wichita Saturday to face Kansas City as the Jayhawk West champions and the tournament’s No. 1 seed.
“I don’t like that we lost those games, but I think we needed those losses,” Jeremy Jones said. “We kept winning and we thought it was easy. Now we are back on track.”
Marquez Patterson, a Liberal native who has been a key to Seward’s defense and transition game, said that the effort wasn’t where it should have been during the back-to-back losses.
“There wasn’t the same intensity we had during the nine-game winning streak,” he said.
Marky Nolen led the Saints with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Jones scored 16, Hollinger had 15, Patterson scored 13, and Rafriel Guthrie had 12.
The Saints (25-6) advanced to Wichita and will face the fourth seed from the East, Kansas City (25-5) at 1 pm. Saturday in Charles Koch Arena. The winner will advance to the Final Four of the Region VI tournament and will play at 5 p.m. Sunday. The championship will take place at 8 p.m. Monday with the winner advancing to the NJCAA National Tournament.
REGION VI TOURNAMENT
SEWARD 99, Labette 63
Kansas City 80, Dodge City 71
Allen 77, Cloud 68
Cowley 65, Barton 63, OT
Hutchinson 51, Fort Scott 39
Independence 67, Butler 64
Garden City 86, Neosho 62
Coffeyville 86, Colby 65
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