LIBERAL, Kan. – The No. 18 Seward County men's basketball team had to use a late rally to defeat the Neosho County Panthers in the Greenhouse Monday night, winning 66-59. The Saints are now 16-3 overall and still sit in first place in the Jayhawk Conference at 9-1, the best start in conference since the 2010-11.
After shooting over 45 percent from the field in each of the last four games, the Saints offense cooled off a bit against the Panthers. Neosho County took a 5-0 lead to start the game before the Saints began to get in a rhythm, turning the tide with a 16-4 run over the next four minutes. Not to be outdone, the Panthers managed a 11-0 run before the media timeout to take a 20-16 lead midway through the half.
Both offenses slowed down in the final eight minutes of play in the half. After the Panthers took a five-point lead with four minutes to play, Seward went on a 6-0 run, taking the lead with a Mohamed Selmi free throw. The Panthers would retake the lead, going up one point with a pair of free throws of their own, going up 33-32 at halftime.
Seward wasted no time retaking the lead to start the second half, starting with a 7-2 run. Once again, however, the Panthers refused to go away, retaking the lead moments later with a run of their own. The two teams traded blows, with the score tied at 48 a piece at the media timeout.
With three minutes to play, the Panthers took a 56-53 lead, appearing to have momentum in check to finish the game. Three free throws later, the Saints tied the game at 56, before Mohamed Selmi drilled just his second three-pointer of the season to put the Saints up 59-56. On the next possession, Selmi came away with a monster block allowing the Saints to go up four points. Over the final three minutes of the game, Seward went on a 10-3 run to close out the Panthers for their fifth straight win.
Seward shot 34.8 percent (23-for-66) from the floor and 18.2 percent (4-for-22) from behind the arc, while hitting juat 16-of-27 from the charity stripe. The Panthers were held in check by the Saints, shooting 35 percent (21-for-60) from the floor and just 21.7 percent (5-for-23) from deep.
Three Saints finished with double-digit points – Devin Bethely (19 pts), Isiah Small (15 pts) and Mohamed Selmi (10 pts). Small added 10 rebounds to come away with his third double-double on the season and ninth of his career.
Seward will start a stretch that includes three of the next four games on the road, beginning Wednesday (Jan. 23) at 8:00 p.m. in Colby. The game can be heard on 107.5 FM with Brock Kappelmann on the call.