By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
WICHITA — Jeremy Jones wasn’t about to let Seward’s season end in the semi-finals of the Region VI tournament.
The highly recruited sophomore dropped three 3-point plays, one the old fashioned way, to lead a 13-2 run midway through the second half, and finished the game with two key baskets off steals to secure a 71-67 win over Cowley that advanced the Saints to the Region VI championship.
Seward had to come back from 12 down to rally for the win over the Tigers, who had a 14-0 run of their own in the first half that flipped a 15-9 deficit into a 23-15 lead.
Seward tried to whittle away at the lead, but uncontested threes by James Watson and Tyrus McGee gave Cowley its biggest lead of the game, 35-23, with 3:56 to play in the half.
Jones sparked Seward’s offense by scoring the next eight Saints points, and Seward reduced the Cowley lead to five by half.
The Saints cut Cowley’s lead to three early in the second half, but McGee cranked in a three five feet behind the line to put the Tigers up 50-40.
Seward went on a 13-3 run that included threes from Jones to tie the game 53-53.
Neither team took more than a two-point lead for the next three minutes of play, and with 1:11 remaining in the game, the score was tied, 67-67.
Jones had a chance to give Seward a lead with 35.1 seconds to play, but he missed both free throws. Seward stole the ball, and Jones made the lay-up to give Seward a two-point lead with 19.9 seconds to play.
Cowley looked to send the game to overtime and had three shots at a tying basket, but none of the shots went in. Jones dragged down the rebound and was fouled with 0.7 seconds to play. Jones made both shots to secure the win, and the Saints celebrated a return to the Region VI title game.
“I was frustrated in the first half,” Jones said. “We couldn’t get anything going, and we were hurrying our shots.”
Jones gave the Saints the lead with 5:21 to play for the first time since early in the first half, and it came from about five feet beyond the three point line.
“Sometimes I take a bad shot, but my teammates trust me to take the shot,” he said.
Jones sealed the deal by scoring the last four of his 29 points off of steals after missing two critical free throws.
“I had to come up on defense after missing those free throws,” he said. “I backtracked the ball handler and knocked it out. My teammate got the steal and passed to me, and I was able to finish the game.”
Seward coach Brian Zollinger didn’t think he put his team in its best position to win, but they won anyway.
“It felt like we should have lost with all the mistakes we made,” he said. “I made some game plan mistakes, and we still found a way to win. This group has evolved into a really competitive, high-character group.”
Jones led all scorers with 29 points, Rafrael Guthrie scored 17, and Daveon Boardingham recovered from a slow first half to score 13 including a critical put-back jam in the final run.
The Region VI championship comes down to a title tilt between the regular season champions of the Jayhawk East and West. Coffeyville pulled away from Hutchinson late in the second semi-final game.
“I hope we play Coffeyville,” Marky Nolen said before the game began. “I want to prove we can beat anybody.”
The Region VI championship begins at 8 p.m at Charles Koch Arena on the campus of Wichita State Univeristy.
The game will be broadcast on KSCB 107.5 FM.