By EARL WATT
The Cowley fans have a tradition, clapping at the beginning of the game prior to the tipoff.
Seward has a tradition, too, of clapping in the final seconds when the game is decided in favor of Seward.
Against Cowley, the outcome was in doubt until the clock read 0.7 seconds and Jeremy Jones walked the length of the court to shoot two free throws after the Tigers missed three attempts to tie the game and had to foul Jones after he finally rebounded for Seward.
The Saints began to celebrate, and just for good measure, Jones buried both shots to make sure nothing strange could have happened.
For most of the game, Seward coach Brian Zollinger's post-game evaluation was true.
How did Seward win the game after making so many mistakes?
Cowley fans had to believe they were on their way to the Region VI championship game after taking a 12-point lead in the first half and leading by 11 with 12:29 to play in the game.
And Seward found a way to win.
It wasn't that big of a secret — get the ball to Jeremy Jones.
He did the rest.
Jones hit lay-ups, free throws, and long-distance bombs to spark the Seward rally.
Cowley's season was slipping away, and they didn't even know it.
The lead dropped to eight, then five, then two, then gone.
It wasn't a loose cannon affair, but a methodical, confident rally that has epitomized Seward's play most of the season. This team has played more like college juniors and seniors, not freshmen and sophomores.
Seward fell behind but didn't panic.
Seward missed critical free throws along the way and didn't roll over.
Cowley walked off the court stunned, wondering how they let the lead slip away, and the Saints survived to make it to the championship game of the Region VI tournament.
Despite a significant rebound advantage for Cowley (54-42), the Saints forced steals and turnovers to make up the difference.
Liberal's Marquez Patterson didn't have his best game, only scoring one point. And foul trouble sent Marky Nolen to the bench early and eventually for good with his fifth.
Daveon Boardingham didn't get on track until the final four minutes.
While Saint after Saint struggled, they never lost hope.
It is cliche’, but it would have been easy to have accepted defeat after knocking on the door of a rally time and time again only to have Cowley stretch the lead back out.
Seward continued to play all the way to the buzzer, and that is why they are playing today.
While Cowley is wondering what happened, those of us who have followed Seward this season already knew.
The Saints don't have one path to victory.
Whatever it takes, whomever it takes, however it takes.
They find a way. They may not have kicked the door in on their way to the title game, but even if they picked the lock, they are in.
If they can find a way to win one more time, the Saints might have Coffeyville wondering what happened when the final buzzer sounds.
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